Monday, August 5, 2013

Simple Mistakes We Make When Exercising a Dog

By Linda Cole

We know it's important to keep our dogs active to help prevent obesity and keep them healthy in body and spirit. Most dogs are willing partners when you want to go hiking, biking, jogging or walking, or participate in a fun sport like dock diving, Disc Dog, agility or flyball. The last thing any responsible pet owner wants to do is put their dog at risk for injury, but without realizing it we can be guilty of doing just that.

Too much exercise with no conditioning 

Most dogs have an athletic side. They love to run, play, jump and race around as fast as they can. Because they want to be with us, preferably everywhere we go, we can easily forget that a dog may not be ready for a five mile run or an afternoon of hiking. Like us, dogs need conditioning and time to build up muscles and stamina. They are as susceptible to soft tissue injuries as we are, and can pull a tendon or get a sprain. Many dogs do enjoy sports, but just like any human athlete-in-training, it's important to start slow and take the time needed to gradually get into shape for any physical activity.

Make sure your dog can keep up with you, and you can keep up with him. A Chihuahua isn't a good running partner, and a Greyhound may leave you in his dust. If your dog isn't on equal terms with you as far as his fitness goes, a walk around the block may be enough exercise for him. If your dog has more energy than you do, play with him in the backyard, then take him for a walk or run.

Forgetting how weather can affect a dog 

The pads of a dog's feet act like shock absorbers to cushion the feet and protect them when walking on hot and cold surfaces. But the pads can be burned by walking on a hot surface like asphalt, concrete or metal. Check your pet's paw pads for cuts, puncture wounds, burrs or small rocks, and keep their pads healthy by making sure they are free of injuries.

Know the signs of heat stroke, hyperthermia and hypothermia, and pay attention to how well your dog tolerates different weather conditions. Hydration is important for both of you – always have fresh water available for you and your dog when exercising. Don't force your pet to continue exercising if he's showing signs of fatigue. You may be ready to go another mile, but your dog may not be.

Not paying attention - multitasking

Plugging in the earphones and listening to your favorite tunes while walking, hiking or jogging with your dog may seem like a perfectly normal thing to do, but you need to have your full attention on what's going on around you and your pet. Multitasking isn't always a good idea. If you are texting, talking on the phone or listening to music, you don't have your eyes and ears open for potential problems such as unexpected meetings with wild animals, other dogs and kids, or other surprises that can quickly develop. Besides, the time should be devoted to your dog. Exercising together is a good way to bond with your dog and enjoy the world around you. It’s a chance to unwind and appreciate nature. That's one lesson you can learn from a dog. Slow down and observe how in-tune he is to intriguing sights, sounds and smells.

How you walk a dog matters

My first dog, Jack, was a perfect gentleman on walks. He always walked on a loose leash on my left side, always sat at a corner to wait while I checked traffic, and never barked at dogs or cats we met along the way. He was getting exercise, but I didn't realize that he also needed to find and investigate scents that interested him. We have five million scent receptors in our nose. Depending on the breed, our canine friends have 125 to 300 million! Your dog should know how to walk calmly beside you when you need to keep him under control, but he also needs time to search for stimulating scents that give his brain a workout along with exercise for his body.

Walking is a good time to reinforce basic commands. Grab a handful of CANIDAE Pure Heaven treats to reward a good sit or stay, or practice having your dog focus on you so he's ready for the times you need his full attention.

Top photo by Paul L. Dineen
Bottom photo by Steven Lilley

Read more articles by Linda Cole


  1. Great post. Obviously we talk alot about proper exercise over at SlimDoggy, but I'm glad you made the point about weather - too many people forget about how weather impacts a dog. Not just when they are exercising, but the pavement on their feet, the cool down, the water needs - all of it.

  2. How very true! This is important for kitties too, especially ones whose owners have started to exercise them because they are trying to lose weight.


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