Dog Exercise - The Role of Exercise in Optimal Dog Health

How much exercise does my dog need?

It's a good question and the amount of exercise varies a little bit, depending on your dog. Of course, our puppies need lots of exercise. They've got tons of energy that they need to get out, so exercise is vital for them. Depending on whether your dog is an athlete, they might need to exercise more frequently, but exercise is essential for all of our dogs to maintain ideal wellness and overall fitness.

Dr. Cason McInturff
Berry Farms Animal Hospital - Cupola Animal Hospitals

How does exercise impact the health and wellbeing of my dog?

There are many different conditions that exercise can help prevent in our dogs. The number one thing is going to be obesity. Unfortunately, obesity is something that we see far too often in our canine species. And just like we hear about in our human medicine, there are many different types of ailments and diseases associated with obesity.

In our larger breed dogs that don't get enough exercise and carry too much weight, excessive weight is tough on their joints. It leads to osteoarthritis and significantly decreases overall quality of life. Other metabolic issues are associated with obesity and a lack of exercise in our dogs as well. A critical step in preventing obesity is adequate exercise. And you pair that with appropriate diets, and you're talking about making the best overall condition for your dog.

How much is too much exercise?

This can be tough to judge. Some dogs just have that go, go, go button where their energy is on level 1000 all the time. And it's hard to know, am I letting them go too much? I will tell you that when we reach the warmer times of the year, here in the summer, when it gets hot, we have to be extremely mindful of how much exercise our dogs are getting, especially with the dogs that don't slow down. I mean, they play catch with you, fetch, play Frisbee, and maybe run and swim. We have to be very mindful in the summertime about how much exercise they're getting. We don't want them to overdo it at all, as that can lead to some severe health issues. We want to allow our puppies to have doses of exercise throughout the day, maybe shorter but more frequent occasions where they can exercise.

Ultimately, many of our dogs are good about letting you know when they are tiring or reaching the point where they don't want to continue exercising. It’s important to judge the individual specifically. But again, be very cautious in the summertime about overdoing it with our dogs.

What are some ways to exercise my dog outside?

There are many different things we can do outside. There are dog parks where our dogs can play. There are agility courses that our dogs can do. You can even bike with your dog. Some dogs will go, and while you're riding your bike, they'll run alongside you. Of course, playing fetch is something you can do. Hiking is an excellent way for our dogs and us to get exercise together at the same time. It's tough to beat a good game of fetch. Those dogs like to play fetch. That's a great form of exercise.

Some dogs love to swim, and allowing them to get in the water and swim is a great thing. That is an excellent form of exercise, especially in our dogs that may be larger and they don't have the same amount of stress on their joints as they would running down the sidewalk.

What are some ways to exercise my dog inside?

Good question. When it's colder, or even when it's too hot, there are things we can do inside—of course, depending on the amount of space. One thing that you can do inside is play a good old-fashioned game of hide and seek with your dog. Hide and seek is a great way to promote movement. Going up and down the stairs is a great form of exercise. When done appropriately, playing tug of war is an excellent way to do exercise as well. There are even treadmill or indoor agility options too.

What are some health issues that can occur from a lack of exercise?

It's an important question and one that we touched on previously. Obesity would be the number one thing we want to prevent and all the issues associated with that. Of course, cardiovascular health is essential, as is respiratory health. But ultimately, trying to prevent obesity in our canine patients would be the number one issue we want to make sure we're using exercise for.

What are some ways to motivate my dog to exercise?

Every dog's personality is a little different. Some dogs may love to run and play fetch with you, and that fetch object may be what motivates them specifically. If they love to swim, give them opportunities to swim. We try to get away from using too many treats during exercise because that kind of negates what we're trying to accomplish. Still, if they are food motivated and they are doing a really good job, it's okay to maybe give them a little piece of a particular treat without overdoing it.

Judging your dog's personality is the most important thing. If they like to go on walks with you, sometimes they grab the leash at the door and get excited, and they’re ready to go—identifying those things that they associate in their mind with the exercise that they enjoy is essential.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (615) 224-7776, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.