All dogs need exercise! What type, how long and how often depends on your dog. Don't forget to have your dog’s council tags on its collar and to pick up after your dog.
Obesity in dogs
The obesity epidemic has hit Australian humans. We have the most rapid obesity rates compared to all other developed countries! But are Australia’s pet owners passing on their bad habits to their canine friends? The Australian Veterinary Association has suggested that 44% of our dogs and 40% of our cats are obese. This staggering number raises concerns for the health of our pets, but even more so for our dogs.
Dogs have a higher tendency to experience weight problems than cats. Unfortunately like humans, females are more likely to store more fat than males, along with those who are neutered, older, poorly exercised, single house pets and dogs with obese owners.
Obesity in our dogs is associated with medical problems such as osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease, insulin disease, liver disease and increased surgical risks. Therefore it is imperative to ensure you give your pooch some exercise. Like humans, dogs who are obese expect to have a shorter life span and poorer quality of life.
However the good news is that only 5% of cases are treatable medically and 95% of cases are simply cured through controlled calorie intake and exercise.
Safety when exercising your dog
- Avoid areas with high grass with lots of seed and prickles with your dog
- Keep your dog on lead during snake season
- Ensure your dog does not pick up something it shouldn’t while out, like dead birds, rubbish or cooked bones
- Not all dogs are as friendly as yours. Always ask for permission before approaching another person’s dog. Note the collar, harness or lead of other dogs – some will have yellow colouring to warn about a nervous dog that needs space. Respect this when noted
- Avoid exercising your dog after dark
Exercising your puppy
Puppies should not go outside your yard for walks until 2 weeks after its last puppy vaccination. However, your puppy can still exercise!
Here are some activities that you and your puppy can safely enjoy:
- Lead train your puppy in the backyard – this is both physical and mental
- Encourage good recall in the backyard so you are ready for the park
- Play with your puppy indoors and outdoors, including ball games, hide and seek, chasey, find the toy and obstacle courses
- Teach your puppy to dig up treats from its sandpit
- Show your puppy how to use a chew/treat toy – this will exercise its mouth and brain!
- Train your puppy to do tricks – both active and calm – rollover, shake hands, sit
- Exhaust your puppy at puppy pre-school
Keep your puppy’s exercise short and frequent. As your puppy grows, you can increase the time frame and exertion slowly. Before you know it, your puppy will be ready to take its first venture to the dog park!
Exercising your teenage dog
Aim at teaching your dog to exercise safely and well as a teenager. This will encourage controlled activity and fun, while also avoiding injuries and negative experiences.
Large and giant breeds of dogs should exercise carefully as teenagers, as their developing joints are prone to problems during growth. We recommend starting with short, regular lead walks that build up gradually at your dog’s own pace. While you can’t prevent all growth problems in big dogs, feeding the right diet and limiting vigorous exercise will go a long way to keeping them healthy.
Young dogs (like most teenagers) like to get “out and about” to catch up with friends and gossip! We recommend that you take your dog for a walk twice daily, even if it is just around the block. If work makes this hard, consider playing some games with your dog, inside or outside. Your dog will be ecstatic to have all your attention and burn off some energy as well.
The dog park is great fun when time permits. Use the fenced areas, if your dog’s recall is still in progress, or keep your dog on a lead.
Dogs love routine, so scheduling your dog’s exercise and playtime into your planner is a great way to stay on track.
Exercising your adult dog
Adult dogs can enjoy a variety of active pursuits. The local dog park is often a favourite!
Here are some suggestions for having a blast with your adult dog:
- A well-trained dog is a joy to walk, so consider some obedience classes
- Cater the length, type and time of exercise for your dog
- In summer, watch out for snakes and grass seeds that can ruin your day
- Use a doggie back pack for water, waste bags and other items like wet wipes or your dog’s medication. There are even special back packs for dogs so you can make your pooch do all the work!
- Plan social events with your dog’s furry friends
If you are too busy to get out and about, consider:
- Throwing a ball in the backyard
- Playing games like hide and seek or chasey
- Hiding treats in the backyard for your pooch to find
- Setting up obstacle courses for your dog
Exercising you senior dog
Your dog may become a senior citizen before you would ever know it! Most senior dogs are still very active, even bouncing around like a puppy.
Continue customary walks with your senior dog, as they are one way to assess any early signs of slowing down or having some problem. You will also soon notice if your dog seems to withdraw from regular exercise, which warrants a check-up.
Many seniors are beginning to feel the aches and pains of a body well used, but still enjoy a good sniff at their usual haunts. There are now many things we can do to keep your senior dog happy, healthy and comfortable to get maximal enjoyment out of life.
Below are some of our recommendations to keep your older dog well during exercise:
- Keep exercise frequent rather than long
- Start joint support for long term mobility, such as fish oil
- Consider hydrotherapy – especially if your dog has had joint/limb/spinal surgery
- Regular massage and acupuncture can benefit many senior dogs
- Start modifying exercise routines to your dog’s ability if needed, eg drive to the local dog park and walk around instead of walking there and back again or consider more lead walks for less wear and tear on joints than running around with other dogs
- Use a coat in winter if your dog feels the cold
- Consider your dog’s health in exercise, eg don’t venture too far from home if your dog is on heart or seizure medication and carry medication with you if appropriate
Exercising your geriatric dog
Your geriatric dog may live with several ageing-related diseases. Regular, gentle strolls outside will benefit your older dog both physically and emotionally.
For optimal enjoyment by both:
- Keep exercise short, frequent and slow if needed
- Plan short rest stops along the way and perhaps a drink
- Take the same way so your dog is familiar with the routine
- Use a dog jacket if it is cold or raining
- Pat dry your dog with a towel on homecoming if it gets wet
- Shorten your journey, if your dog is slowing down at the end
- If your dog no longer wants to go for a walk, please contact us or your local vet
- Keep your dog on arthritis support
- Carry your dog’s medication with you if advised by us
- Carry mobility support with you in case your dog needs it
- Have your older dog checked at least twice annually to ensure wellness
Please contact us at Ovens & Kiewa Veterinary Hospital if you'd like any more information.
Serving the pet community of the Alpine Shire Council. The pawfect location for pet parents living in Myrtleford, Kiewa Valley, Ovens Valley and surrounding areas!