Fitness is important for dogs too. Looking good--yeah, that's important. Feeling good--even more important. Exercise increases your heartrate, increases blood flow, improves lung capacity, and makes muscles and bones stronger. And when you are fit, this means less health problems, a good attitude, and happy owner.
So, the components of good health are...anyone...that's right of course: a good diet and moderate exercise.
Let's just look at the exercise.
How Much Is Enough?
A couple of 10-minute walks, half hour games of fetch or a good long run every day--how much exercise should your dog get?
Well, it depends on several things: your dog likes, what you like to do, your pup's physical condition, and his natural inclinations.
For instance, as you'll see below, some breed types are more inclined to walk and others play games.
At a baseline, if you have a healthy dog, then 30-minute work outs at least four days a week are sufficient for good health. It doesn't matter if it is one 30-minute session or 2 fifteen minute sessions, the benefits are the same.
If you have a highly active dog, she should get more sessions during the week to work off the energy. Dogs who are overweight also need more activity in order to shape up. However, you have to start small and add activity gradually. For instance, if your pudgy pooch has had no regular activity for quite some time, start with 10- to 15-minute leisurely walks on at least 5 days.
And don't think, taking two 1-hour walks on Saturday and Sunday will make up for a week of inactivity. This could actually harm your dog if they are not in shape or suffer from certain conditions like arthritis.
It's not always easy to fit in fitness, for dogs or humans, in the day. But if you schedule for it--just like the housework and sleeping--you will be inclined to exercise consistently.
Ramping It Up
If you are looking to start a more vigorous routine, either because your dog needs it or you want to start running again, you should already have an established walking routine consists of at least 2 miles or its equivalent.
Add ten minute increments to your routine every 1-2 weeks until you are at the point where you want to be.
Naturally if you have any concerns at all about the state of your dog's health, talk to your vet.
The Right Exercise for the Dog
The type and amount of exercise your dog should get depends on the dog. Just as with people, there is not necessarily one that that will fit all of us. First, look at the dog breed to get a general idea.
Companion breeds like the Shih Tzu and Chihuahua tend to have minimal exercise needs, at least a walk a day.
Gun dogs, like Labrador Retrievers and Poodles are bred for lots of activity and require long walks (at a minimum) all their lives.
Terriers, although smaller, are clever, high energy dogs. Play is as good for them as much as walks.
Hounds can switch easily between work and play mode so long, low key walks are good and extremely interesting to them.
With Guard dogs like German Shepards and Great Pyrenees, walks and runs are great exercises. Establish limits when playing games, as they can take them seriously quickly.
Herding dogs like the Collies and Sheepdogs have moderate to high energy levels and are highly intelligent. Exercise is a must for their mental stimulation as much as their body. Games and sports are definitely their thing.
Northern dogs like Huskies and Malamutes have energy to burn, so keeping them active, walking or sport, is a good idea.
Both of you will be happier if you incorporate activities in your routine that are compatible to your dog's style. What kind of personality does he have?
Dominant dogs are harder to train, insistent, and competitive. Because they can easily be provoked into biting, a walk or a run (in an area without crowds) may be preferable to games. When you do play games, you should keep them short and you must maintain control before Fido gets serious.
On the other hand, confident dogs are dominant, but they readily accept their owner's leadership. Most any type of physical fitness will suit this type of pooch, especially games or sports that challenge them or play that includes other dogs.
Apprehensive or shy dogs will likely prefer quiet walks in less populated areas. If you want to work in games in your routine, start very slowly with mild games. In fact, she or he does best with predictable, structured routines that are not overly demanding.
A dog with an independent personality is not demonstrably affectionate and has a low need for human companionship. These dogs sometimes seem so low-key you may think they don't need much exercise. Not so. If in good health, these dogs do well in steady, endurance activities like runs, bike rides (with proper equipment), and hikes.
Now Walk It Out
Walking the Dog 101
The simplest and most popular exercise routine is walking. A daily routine of walking is a good basis for any fitness program. And the easiest. Maybe even the oldest. And cheap too. Need I say more?
All you need is a collar and a leash. If you have a reluctant or overeager walker, get off to a good start with a training collar (nylon slip collar, check chain, or prong collar depending on how undisciplined the dog). These collar are humane but effective because they restrict her the more she pulls against the leash. Learn to use a training collar the right way!
Four Things That Can Make For Great Walks
1. A pooper scooper. Not only is does this make it nice for other people, it's the law in most places.
2. Water. If walking more than 20 minutes or in hot weather, bring a retractable or small dish and a water bottle.
3. Rest stops. Be attentive to your dogs needs if he needs to stop.
4. More buddies. Hey, you know the walk is good for you too. Take a roommate or your honey and talk about the day. Take your kids and get them on the dog care routine.
Need a little more than a walk? Try...
Walk your dog on different surfaces like sand, shallow water, fallen leaves, or snow.
Make up an obstacle course as you go, walking over benches, around trees,over holes and logs to add jumping, crawling and balancing to your dog's workout.
Top Five Workouts NOT To Do With Your Dog
5. Walking the dog -- while you drive your car.
4. Race to the kitchen.
3. Frisbee toss with the good china.
2. Playing fetch with the neighbors cat.
1. "Law and Order" Marathon.