Ensuring your dog gets regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for his health.
The exercise factor
Exercising your dog is not only essential for his health and wellbeing, but it’s also a great way for you to spend quality time together and strengthen the bond between you.
And as well as helping your dog to control weight, build energy and maintain strong cardiovascular and immune systems, the exercise will help you do exactly the same!
Vary your routine
Helping your dog stay in shape should never be a chore for either of you. Exercise should be fun and varied – and doesn't just have to be a long time-consuming walk.
If you stick to the same routine every day your dog may become as bored as you do. Vary your walking route regularly, and try to build in some playtime. But don’t overdo things and make sure you tailor your programme to suit both you and your dog.
If your dog has more energy than you do, play fetch with a ball or a flying disc. The activity will provide exercise that is both challenging and fun for your dog without wearing you out.
All puppies and young dogs benefit from playing fetch. As long as they receive positive reinforcement in the form of hugs and pats (avoid using treats too much as this can lead to obesity), many dogs will gladly wear out your throwing arm! Avoid throwing sticks, though, as the wood can often splinter and damage the teeth, throat and stomach.
On the other hand, older dogs will tend to prefer more refined, leisurely walks – but still try to vary the route to keep things interesting!
Not surprisingly, some breeds naturally crave more frequent, and more vigorous, exercise than others. Often this is as a result of the original role they were bred for. Others may have genetically inherited their favourite pastimes. Terriers love to dig, Hounds, with a strongly developed sense of ‘chase’, prefer sharp bursts of exercise, Pastoral breeds particularly enjoy canine sports. Contact your breeder or visit our Dog Breed Library to learn more about your dog’s instinctive preferences.
Start out gently
If in the past you have not been able to provide your pet with regular exercise, but have now decided to start, go slowly at first. Begin with short periods of activity at slow speeds, gradually increasing the time, speed and distance.
Also, begin walking or running your dog on soft surfaces such as dirt, sand or grass until the pads on their feet toughen.
Keeping your dog on a lead gives you control when walking or running.
If your dog has a history of medical problems, it’s better to work with your vet to plan an appropriate exercise program.
Avoid exercising dogs immediately before or after they’ve eaten. A full stomach may cause digestive upsets or even serious illness. And only provide small amounts of water before and directly after exercise.
Whatever the weather
Dogs need regular exercise whatever the weather conditions. But it’s important to keep in mind that extremely weather presents extra challenges.
Like us, dogs can suffer from frostbite just as we do, so if you walk your dog in the snow, wipe the paw pads to remove any snow, ice or salt that may have got caught.
In summer, think about sunburn, heatstroke, and dehydration. And remember, your dog's feet can be damaged by hot asphalt.
But whatever activity you end up doing together, always remember that your dog loves to spend time with you, so make that time really special.
About the Purina PetCare Advice Centre
The Purina PetCare Advice Centre brings together a team with in-depth knowledge, experience and special interests with the skills to advise about health and nutrition, behaviour, training, socialisation, as well as basic first aid for your cat or dog. Our team of dedicated pet lovers can also provide information about Purina products and services to help you give your pet the best possible care. If you've got a question about any aspect of pet care, then ask the Purina PetCare Advice team.