Exercising your pet is a great way for you to spend quality time together and strengthen the bond between you. As well as helping your dog to control his weight and help him reach his ideal body condition, build energy, and maintain strong cardiovascular and immune systems, that exercise will help you to do exactly the same!
Varying your routine
Helping your dog stay in shape should never be a chore for either of you. Exercise should be fun and varied - and doesn't just have to come in the form of a long time-consuming walk. And in any case, if you just stick to the same routine every day your dog may become as bored as you do. Vary your walking route regularly, and try to build in some playtime with games and challenges. But don't over do things and make sure you tailor your programme to suit both you and your dog.
If your dog has more energy than you do, play fetch with a ball or a flying disc. The activity will provide exercise that is both challenging and fun for your dog without wearing you out. Most puppies and young dogs in particular benefit from the game of fetch. As long as they receive positive reinforcement in the form of hugs and pats (avoid using treats too much as this can lead to weight problems) many dogs will gladly wear out your throwing arm! Avoid throwing sticks, as the wood can often splinter and damage the teeth, throat and stomach.
On the other hand, older dogs will tend to prefer more refined, leisurely walks - but still try to vary the route to keep things interesting!
Start out gently
If you have not been able to provide your pet with regular exercise, but have now decided to start, go slowly at first. Begin with short periods of activity at slow speeds, gradually increasing the time, speed and distance. Also, begin walking or running your dog on soft surfaces such as dirt, sand or grass until his foot-pads toughen. And remember - keeping your dog on a lead gives you control when walking or running, though you will find that your dog will be better managed wearing a headcollar or harness if he is very enthusiastic or large and powerful.
If your dog has a history of medical problems, it's better to work with your vet to plan an appropriate exercise program.
Avoid exercising dogs immediately before or after they've eaten. A full stomach may cause digestive upsets. Also, always ensure they have plenty of fresh, clean drinking water available at all times.
Whatever the weather
Dogs need regular exercise whatever the weather conditions. But it's important to keep in mind that extremely warm or cold weather presents extra challenges. Dogs can suffer from frostbite just as we do. If you walk your dog in the snow, wipe the paw pads to remove any snow, ice or salt that may have got caught in his fur. During the summer think about sunburn and heatstroke. And remember, your dog's feet can be damaged by hot asphalt, so be extra careful around roadworks and consider buying him a pair of booties if he has very sensitive feet.
But whatever activity you end up doing together, always remember that your dog loves to spend time with you so make that time really special rather than just plodding around the same old park every day where he meets the same dogs and follows the same scents.
Not surprisingly some breeds naturally crave more frequent, and more vigorous, exercise than others and different types prefer different activities. Often this is as a result of the original role they were bred for.. Terriers love to dig, hounds, with a strongly developed sense of 'chase', prefer sharp bursts of exercise and pastoral breeds particularly enjoy canine sports. Learn more about how to cater for your dog's instinctive preferences for exercise and play.