Everyone knows how important exercise is in staying physically fit, helping our bodies fight off diseases as well as minimizing the results of aging. It turns out that dogs also need to have routine, regular exercise to stay healthy, maintain their weight as well as help their bodies stay as strong and active as possible right into their senior years. Unfortunately many dogs either get far too little or exercise or get a kind of exercise that is likely to cause problems for the dog either due to muscle and skeletal stress or other issues.
Healthy exercise should include regular, routine activities that stimulate the dog both physically and mentally. Some breeds can be exercised by jogging until the owner can't run another step and still they come home and chew up the furniture while the owner is in the shower. This is because these breeds need to be mentally stimulated and have a brain workout as well as a physical one. Breeds that are considered intelligent dogs and often are herding, working or hunting/sporting breeds are definitely in need of mental stimulation over and above sheer physical activity.
Some breeds that are developed just for their physical traits such as Whippets, Greyhounds, Irish Wolfhounds, Dalmatians and even the Terrier breeds need a lot of physical exercise, but once that is satisfied they can actually do very well even in small apartments and homes with very tiny yards. If, however, these dogs are not given enough routine, intense exercise they will turn to destructive behavior to burn off the energy, much to the dismay of the owners. In reality the owners may not realize that they are really contributing and creating the problem themselves through inappropriate or incomplete exercise routines and schedules.
The term healthy exercise may seem a bit strange, after all isn't all exercise healthy? Well for dogs there are some very unhealthy types of activities that can actually lead to serious conditions as the dog's age or even during the important growth periods for a puppy. There are also activities that are simply unsafe for the dog, no matter how cute, cool or unique they may be.
Typically any type of physical exercise including running, walking, jogging or even playing games such as fetch, catch or Frisbee are all considered to be healthy things for the average, healthy dog. Healthy exercise does need to get the dog's metabolic rate above resting level so a very slow, casual stroll around the block is not really doing much for the dog, especially if they are a young, healthy dog.
Healthy or productive types of exercise need to get the resting heart rate up to allow the dog to burn fat and calories plus to help with digestion and circulation. A dog's body is designed to function best when they are in motion, which is why sedate dogs tend to have more health problems, including poor digestion and elimination of body waste than active dogs. It is not always the health condition causing the inactivity, sometimes the weight gain and inactivity triggers the resulting health problem.
Since dogs don't sweat like humans it is a bit difficult to know if your dog is getting the workout he or she needs. Each breed will be different, as will each individual dog within a breed or even those dogs of mixed lineage. Your dog should definitely start to pant slightly and he or she may also have a lot of energy and then gradually slow and calm down, this is a good sign that the excess energy is being used and the dog is getting a good workout.
Any type of exercise that causes physical pain or discomfort for your dog or may result in injury to your dog is a problem. There are many different types of activities that seem like a good idea on the surface as a way to exercise your dog however when you really stop to think they are risky at best and downright deadly at worst.
Bike riding with a dog is one such potentially risky activity. If the dog is on a leash you run the risk of the leash somehow tangling in the pedal or on the frame of the bike, which can actually pull the dog into the bike or under the wheels. Even with a large dog this could be a huge injury concern and for a smaller dog it can cause death if the bike actually passes over the dog. For dogs off the leash there is always the chance they may slip or fall into the bike or more likely dart in front of the bike after something.
Inline skating, roller skating and skateboarding are also problematic for the same reasons. Although you may have seen a video of a dog happily sitting on a skateboard, that dog probably took many falls before finally learning how to stay onboard. If the dog is running beside the owner, the wheels of the board can run over toes causing serious damage and even cause the loss of the foot, or the skateboard itself can run into the bones of the leg. This can result in cuts, lesions and even breakage of the long bones in the lower leg.
One form of exercising for dogs that is extremely dangerous is exercising your dog by having him or her run alongside a vehicle. Not only is this mentally and emotionally terrifying to the dog but it is also likely to lead to stress as the dog frantically runs to keep up. Even dogs that don't become overly stressed with the exercise are still prone to injuries from being hit either by the owner's car or by another vehicle that simply doesn't see the dog if it darts across the road or out of the roadside area.
Really stopping to think through any possible safety issues for the dog is important before trying a new type of exercise. If there are no dangers always start out slowly, then gradually increase the intensity and duration of the activity as the dog becomes used to the routine.