It wasn’t just people who were isolated and under-exercised during the pandemic. and Socialising and exercise for dogs also took a big hit and the consequences are now manifesting themselves in behavioural problems and pet obesity.
You might have a pet now that is hyperactive, pestering, needy, and getting into trouble? There are many reasons for this and far from being something you should ignore, we’ll look at ways you can teach an old dog new tricks. You can teach dogs of all ages new behaviours.
Dogs are social animals and need the stimulation that outdoor exercise offers. Boredom and lack of physical activity are common reasons behaviour problems develop. A happy dog is a good dog!
Of course, every dog is different. Before beginning an exercise program be sure your dog is in good health – get your vet’s approval before drastically changing the dog’s routine.
Factors to consider are breed, age, weight, physical characteristics (such as short “pushed-in” muzzles), and weather conditions.
Daily walks might be enough for some dogs; others need more intense workouts. Your dog should get aerobic exercise at least three times a week – this means enough exercise to make him pant. Just because your dog is outside in the garden or yard does not mean he is getting enough exercise.
Methods of exercise for dogs
Walking – You can use a Flexi-lead to safely increase the distance the dog can go. Use common sense – for instance, do not allow the dog to invade the space of another dog, or to run into the street. (If you walk your dog in a congested area, it is best to use a regular lead for safety instead of a Flexi.) Allow the dog some sniffing time then move out at a brisk pace.
Running – If you are confident in your dog’s willingness to recall, you can let your dog run off the lead – if not, find a safe fenced field.
By doing this your dog can set his own pace and stop when he is tired, plus he has the mental stimulation of sniffing to his heart’s content. If you jog with your dog on a lead pay attention not to go too far until he is in condition.
If you live in the country there are other considerations, such as livestock – especially in springtime when sheep are lambing. Always check permissions before letting your dog off the lead.
Swimming – very good exercise for dogs with joint problems since it is non-weight bearing.
Fetching – throwing a tennis ball or other toy (try a kong) for the dog to fetch is fun. You can use a tennis racquet to increase the distance the ball (and the dog) travels. If the dog is in good condition throw the ball uphill. In the house, you can throw the ball up the stairs.
Jumping – most dogs love to jump. You can make your own jumps from materials you have around the house. Try using cardboard boxes for small dogs – you can do this in the house. Try luring the dog with treats, and start with very low jumps of just a few inches. As a general rule, it is best to keep the jump heights at the level of the dog’s elbow so as not to cause stress. All jumping must be done off-lead, and never force the dog. If the dog refuses to jump it might reflect a physical problem.
Lung-whip – Get a buggy whip (at farm supply stores). Attach a ball or other toy to the end. Tennis balls you can buy on-a-rope are good for this. Or put a squeaky toy in a sock and tie the sock to the end of the whip. Then twirl the whip in a big circle and let the dog chase it. Occasionally let the dog catch it too.
This is one of my favourite games to play with dogs – the dog can really get a workout in a relatively small space. Stop while the dog is still enjoying the game so he will be eager to play next time. (You can buy a dog toy called “Ball-on-a-Rope” to use instead of making one from a buggy whip.)
Cycling – you can buy an attachment called a Springer that fixes to your bike. It is expensive at around £100 but it does prevent the dog from pulling over the bike if he lunges after something. Start with short distances at first and probably not the right solution for you if you live near busy roads or your dog is flighty.
Frisbee – many dogs love to play Frisbee, and it can be good exercise. But be careful to keep your throws low to the ground. Dogs have been injured from leaping in the air to catch a frisbee. You do not want to stress a puppy by playing this game at too young an age – check with your veterinarian on this. Buy a soft Frisbee specially made for dogs, to avoid accidentally chipping teeth.
Canine exercise balls – Also called Boomer Balls, these resemble bowling balls. They come in different sizes and are made of virtually indestructible hard plastic. Big dogs such as Labs and Rottweilers love to play with these, using their feet to play football, with a human companion of course!
Another option is canine sports – any breed can do agility, flyball, obedience, musical freestyle, or tracking. Some organizations are open to mixed breeds too. Breed-specific activities are herding, lure coursing, hunt tests, and go-to-ground trials.
After a session of strenuous exercise, you can wind down by gently massaging your dog.
Mental exercise for dogs
Another knock-on effect from the pandemic is our pets have been accustomed to company. Your presence whether through restriction or home working has established a routine and comfort that is now being disrupted by a return to how things were before COVID.
Pets will inevitably suffer separation anxiety and stress, so finding suitable mental exercise to complement whatever physical activity is important for your pet’s wellbeing and development.
Socialising – Your dog needs mental stimulation as well as physical exercise. Many dogs get into trouble when they are bored and have no suitable outlets. Being around other dogs – and people – even for short periods, will help them process news sounds, smells and sights without stress. As they grow more confident you can increase their social time and give them more freedom to play.
Hide a toy or dog biscuit, or even a person, and let the dog hunt until he finds it.
Foraging – Let your dog use his smelling instincts to forage in your outdoor spaces for bits of food. At first, make it easy by dropping a piece or two right under his nose. After he catches on, throw bits into different parts of the garden or yard. If your dog is high-energy, let him forage for his meal instead of eating out of a bowl. Or stuff a Kong and hide it – let your dog ‘work’ for his dinner and burn off some of that energy.
Try this test to see if your dog has gotten enough exercise: Sit down to watch a TV show or read. Is your dog snoozing beside you or still chewing at his toys. If it’s this latter, increase the intensity of his exercise – nothing drastic – just an incremental rise until you find the sweet spot that gives him what he needs.
If you found Exercise for dogs – a happy dog is a good dog helpful, you’ll find more expert pet care advice on our Pets channel.Tags: exercise for dogs, Pets Last modified: March 30, 2022