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It's A Dog's Life-The Importance Of Exercise



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It’s A Dog’s Life—

The Importance Of Exercise

By Mary Jane Anderson

Sunlight, fresh air, and exercise directly affect your dog’s health and happiness. Exercise keeps your dog in top-notch conditions. It also keeps your dog at its proper weight, avoiding an overweight dog’s danger of strain on heart, muscles, and lungs. Overweight “couch potato” dogs and young dogs that are kept idle indoors or are tied up outside are apt to become sluggish and difficult to control. Without daily exercise, dogs can become frustrated, nervous, and tense, and that can be a source of behavioral problems for a dog’s owner.

Some people like to blame their dog’s poor condition of the dog’s breed, but that’s not the case. Many kinds of dogs were bred to work for people, who developed and strengthened different traits in different breeds. These traits enabled the dogs to perform specific tasks, such as guarding, herding, and tracking to help people in their work. Even though many such dogs no longer work at such jobs and have become companions in homes, their skills continue to function. Without exercise of some form, companion dogs are often not given what they need — a job.

That job can be daily walking; there is not a substitute. Starting such a program can be difficult as well as uncomfortable for you and your dog, but unfortunately, fitness must be earned. So, get out the leash, put it on him, and start. Start slowly, working ten minutes a day, then increase to 20 minutes until you walk 30 minutes each day. You could find that the walk can become a special time and that both would look forward to your “togetherness” each day.

Walking your dog can be done two ways. One, you allow your dog to pull you down the street, stopping to sniff or relieve himself on the neighbors lawn. Your dog is in control of the walk. The second way is you controlling your dog.

Controlling your dog on a leash takes teamwork. Both you and your dog learn control. First you teach commands to your dog. Your dog learns to walk next to you as you set the pace, whether it is slow, medium, or fast paced. You guide your dog with the leash to walk next to you, not ahead of you. If you let the collar and leash lie loose at the base of his neck (the strongest part of a dog) the dog has control and he will pull you. His leash should be up in back of his ears. Then, if your dog starts to get ahead of you, give the leash a snap and release. The snap is taking your left hand holding the leash and moving your hand quickly toward the right and release. Do not pull your dog back when he pulls forward since he will pull harder.

Teaching your dog to walk without pulling takes time and effort on your part. But, if you are consistent each and every time, your dog will learn to control himself. Walking teaches a dog both to think and control his actions.

There are many advantages to controlling your dog while you are walking. A squirrel may run across the street and your dog may try to chase it. Or you may walk past another dog on a leash. Or you might meet a friend and stop to chat. Your quick “sit” command keeps your dog quiet until the situation has changed and you are ready to continue your walk.

Another form of exercise is jogging. If you are a jogger, your dog runs beside you, on his leash. The leash is especially important in running. Free-running dogs have been killed by passing cars. Dogs love to run and can certainly benefit not only from the exercise, but also from the emotional bond that develops as owner and dog enjoy running together.

The cool of the day is the best time to “hit the pavement” — for both you and your dog. You do not want to run with a dog when has just finished a meal; he needs time to digest his food. Joggers should have their dog checked by a veterinarian to make sure he is in good physical condition. If, on the road, your dog lags behind you or pants heavily, he is tired. Be sure to give him a few breathers during each run.

Any dog needs to begin a serious running program gradually — short distances, about a half a mile, increasing to length of each time out. Health problems can occur if a dog runs too much. As Dr Charles Schaubhut, head of inpatient medicine at an ASPCA hospital has observed, “Dogs are very anxious to please their owners and sometimes extend themselves beyond their limit, leading to lacerated pads, ligament damage, and an assortment of other injuries.” Remember, you might be training for a marathon, but do not expect your dog to run at your level. Moderation is the key.

There are many forms of exercise besides walking and running that help all dogs — young, old, big, or small — to maintain good condition and keep them in good spirits. You can design activities for you and your dog since a little Dachshund has a different ability level than a German shepherd. But all owners and their dogs that develop a recreational time together learn how to communicate between each other, which is a mental boost for both an owner and his dog.

Teach your dog to retrieve. Playing ball is good exercise for your dog, and an activity that will burn up calories for the dog, provide lots of fun and contribute a fellowship with your dog without stressing you. Your dog will never tire! On rainy days or winter time, a fun game for you and your dog would be “Find It.” Put your dog in another room and tell him “Down/Stay.” You go into another room and hide treats or toys, anything he enjoys having. Make sure you reward him with a good pat and “great job” before you continue again. In the beginning, you give easy places he can find his reward, then increase the difficulty for him to find it. This could also be practiced outdoors in the summer. It is amazing how quickly they catch on to the game.

All humans and animals need exercise. What can be better than being active with your dog? Did you know that your dog looks forward to times when he gets to walk, run, or play with you — his owner and master? All your attention is on him — and he knows it and appreciates his special time with you.

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