Have you noticed how many more people are walking their dogs? We have a veritable parade passing our living room window. We have the regulars: the black dachshunds, the sheltie mix, the Portuguese water dogs and the yellow lab mix.
On any given day, there will be several dogs we don’t recognize and someone will say, “Wonder where they live? We haven’t seen that dog before.”
Maybe it’s the weather, with people wanting to be outside more. Maybe it’s people wanting to adopt a healthier lifestyle and walking the dog is a good way to exercise. And our dogs do need to exercise.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals notes our dogs’ wild relatives lead busy and complex lives, caring for offspring, scavenging for food, defending territory, interacting socially and solving problems necessary for their survival. Our dogs were bred for a specific purpose: hunting, providing protection or herding livestock.
Now our dogs lead sedentary lives, often alone, inactive and confined most of the day, waiting for us to come home. Along with not having a job, our dogs may not be getting enough exercise.
Not having anything constructive to do with their energy, dogs will find something else to do. The most common behaviors that result from dogs not getting enough exercise and play are:
* Destructive chewing, digging, scratching.
* Investigative behaviors, like garbage raiding.
* Hyperactivity, excitability, and nighttime activity.
* Excessive predatory and social play.
* Play biting and rough play.
* Attention-getting behaviors like barking and whining.
Daily exercise, along with keeping our dogs healthy and happy, benefits our dogs by:
* Reducing digging, excessive barking, chewing and hyperactivity.
* Helping to keep our dogs agile and limber.
* Helping to reduce digestive problems and constipation.
* Helping timid or fearful dogs build trust and confidence.
* Helping our dogs feel sleepy, rather than restless at bedtime.
* Helping to keep dogs’ weight under control.
Our dogs have considerable natural energy. Their need for exercise depends on their age, size, breed and individual traits. Check with your veterinarian before you start an exercise program. The ASPCA suggests our dogs benefit enormously from daily aerobic exercises like fetching, tugging, running and swimming, as well as at least one half-hour walk.
Exercising your dog can also mean focusing on his brain with food, puzzle toys, obedience, and trick training and chew toys. Or focus on games that make your dog run around while you stand or sit still, like fetch with balls, Frisbees or sticks; Find It; Hide and Seek; catching bubbles (using a special bubble blower toy made for dogs, like the Bubble Buddy); or chasing a toy on a rope.
Whether you walk your dog — the ASPCA notes dog owners walk an average of 300 minutes per week — or keep your dog active with less athletic pursuits, we need to help them use up their energy. Our dogs will be healthier for it and we may be too.
Let’s walk; it’s healthy for us, as well as our dogs.