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How to Help Your Dog Exercise for Health and Fitness

Our dogs need exercise, much like we do — they just don’t need as much motivation. Every dog is unique and benefits from physical activity in different ways. From burning off extra energy to losing a little weight to nourishing the mind, these dog fitness facts and tips will help your pal perform at their peak and live their healthiest life.

Why Focus on Fitness?

Thinking Healthy

In humans, physical exercise has been tied to cerebral fitness, and it seems that mental stimulation for dogs follows the same basic principles. When given unfamiliar tasks to complete dogs that have been well trained achieve success much faster. So, teaching your dog a few common tricks could help sharpen their brains for broader problem-solving.

How Much Exercise Does Your Dog Need?

There’s no magic formula for the amount and type of exercise your dog needs. A lot depends on their size, breed and age. It’s also a matter of your dog’s energy level: if you keep finding shredded shoes, your frustrated family member needs more constructive activities on their schedule. However, even the most mellow dogs should get about 30 minutes of exercise a day — just enough time for a refreshing walk.

What Should You Consider Before Exercising Your Dog?

  • Visit the vet: Before starting an exercise regimen, have a vet evaluate your dog for any conditions that can limit or otherwise impact their activities.
  • Get the right gear: Be sure to use the right equipment for the job for example, a basic leash and collar are sufficient for walking, but for cycling your dog needs a harness and stretchable lead.
  • Remember to water: Keeping your dog hydrated is critical, especially on outdoor adventures, so take water with you or know where to find a safe drinking source.
  • Consider the weather: Breeds with thick or dark fur are more susceptible to heat exhaustion. And no matter how furry, your dog is still vulnerable to extreme cold, especially at fur-free points such as their nose and paw pads.
  • Check the air quality: Days with poor air conditions can affect breeds that might have respiratory challenges (such as bulldogs and terriers).
  • Establish a routine: Set a regimen that's realistic for your schedule, because once your dog learns it, they'll expect you to stick to it.

Exercises for Every Dog

Whatever the challenge, dogs are hard-wired to keep going on. Even dogs with health issues can benefit from walking and playing as long as the activity doesn't aggravate their condition. Dogs badly afflicted with orthopedic problems may find swimming a more comfortable option. Every dog has the will to play — it’s simply a matter of finding the activities that unleash it.

Going for a Walk

Walking is the most fundamental activity we share with our dogs. In general, you can begin walking puppies over 16 weeks old for short distances, and extend the walks as they reach adulthood at 9 to 12 months for small breeds and 15 months for large breeds. Larger dogs typically have more endurance than smaller dogs, and younger dogs tend to have more energy than their senior counterparts.

Target Training

This is a very simple technique using visual prompts to teach your dog to touch (or target) a specific point, whether it’s on your body, a surface or an object. It’s most commonly taught using your dog’s nose to touch targets, but you can try using paws, a shoulder, an ear or even the tail. You just need treats, repetition, time and a willing learner.

Agility Training

It’s not just for dog shows — in addition to exercising their brain, teaching your dog to tackle an obstacle course burns energy, builds endurance, builds muscle tone and strengthens bones and joints. You can tailor a course to your dog’s size and abilities, and change it over time to keep your pup challenged.

Spin

Teaching your dog to twirl on their hind legs is a cool trick, and it’s also great exercise. The conditioning improves hip stability and core strength, which can help ward off orthopedic problems later in life. Just be sure to work in both clockwise and counterclockwise directions to balance out development.

Chipmunk

Once you see a pooch in this position, you totally get the name: a dog sits squarely with their forelimbs off the ground, their spine straight and their level head facing forward. Though not the easiest move to learn, it pays off by boosting your dog’s balance and strengthening the muscles that support their spine.

Hide and Seek

If you’re stuck inside, this childhood game is a great way to get your dog moving. Tell them to stay in one part of the house while you hide in another. Don’t have a lot of space to play in? Try hiding treats instead, and watch your dog sniff and snort their way to some tasty rewards.

Fetch

Balls, toys, discs … pretty much anything you can throw is ideal for fetching. It’s fun for dogs of all sizes and a great activity for maintaining overall fitness. Breeds built for endurance can wear out your arm, while sprinters will give both of you a break now and then.

Hula Hoop

This exercise is fairly easy to learn. Simply use a few encouraging words (and treats) to get your dog to walk through the hoop at ground level. Raise the hoop in small increments with each pass, and before you know it, your dog will clock some impressive hang times.

You want a healthy life for your best friend. With all the ways to stay active both indoors and outdoors, every day holds fun opportunities for keeping your dog fit.

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