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  • Courteous K9

Are You Exercising Your Dog Correctly?

Updated: Mar 4

What Does Proper Exercise Look Like?

Person running with their dog for exercise

In general, exercise should serve to enrich your dog's life- so what proper exercise for one dog may not look the same for another. Even exercise for 2 individual dogs that are the same breed is going to differ. What you need to do is take into account the dog's health and physical ability. Are they at a proper weight? Do they have any physical limitations (tripod dogs, luxating patellas, bad hips, etc)? Asking yourself these questions and answering them truthfully will give you good insight on what your dog is capable of doing. Some dogs will prefer a neighborhood walk, whereas other dogs will enjoy an intense game of fetch.

For puppies or dogs that are still growing, you want to do your best to avoid too much forced or repetitive high impact exercise (running with them, fetch, etc). Too much forced exercise can damage their still developing growth plates and joints that can cause long-term issues. While more on the conservative side, a good rule of thumb is about 5 minutes of exercise for however many months the puppy is. So, a 3 month old puppy should generally not get more than 15 minutes of "forced" exercise a day (fetch, walks, etc). But, they can play as much as they want if it is self-regulated!

Don't Use Exercise as a Form of Management:

One of our biggest pet peeves at Courteous K9 is when people say their dog is going to be naughty because they didn't get their daily walk, hike, or run in. When you solely rely on exercise to have an exhausted dog, you aren't necessarily working on relaxation and training skills. Instead, you have a dog that is too tired to do anything naughty. This is usually pretty evident on those days you don't go for a walk and now all of a sudden your dog is super naughty. Plus, the more you exercise your dog, the more strength and stamina they will have. Now they will require more exercise to get the same level of tiredness as when you started. When you rely on exercise to have a manageable dog in the house, you end up creating a super-athlete. Instead, you should look at exercise as a way to enrich your dog's life while not forgetting to focus on relaxation skills.

For example, many of the staff at CK9 have very high drive working dogs that do not need to be heavily exercised to be tolerable in the house. Instead, we focus on teaching the art of relaxing when in the house, so when life gets in the way or we get sick, we still have well-behaved dogs that are easy to live with even though we can't exercise them.

German Shepherd exercising with her ball

In addition to not using exercise as a form of management, you shouldn't use mental stimulation as a form of management. Your dog should not have constant enrichment or interactive activities throughout the day. Time should be spent on settling in the house during day to day activities. It is okay to offer your dog a chew, frozen kong, interactive puzzle toy, etc. sometimes, but the goal should be to enrich their life rather than to exhaust them. Again, make sure time is spent on your dog's relaxation skills as well.

One of the only exceptions to using exercise as a form of management is if your dog suffers from crate and/or separation anxiety. While we are working on training proper coping skills, it is not a bad idea to exercise your dog to take the edge off if you need to be away from them.

General Tips When Exercising Your Dog:

  • Length of exercise is dog dependent. Look for signs of fatigue (laying down, slowing down, taking a bigger loop before bringing the toy back, etc) and make sure to give rest days in between heavy exercise days.

  • If your dog seems to have a subtle injury, make sure to NOT exercise them for at least a few days to make sure you do not amplify the injury further.

  • If your dog resource guards or chases and nips at other dogs when playing with toys, do not go to the dog park to play fetch. That is a recipe for a fight.

  • Impulse control around toys- don't add impulse control too quickly for dogs that aren't obsessed with playing, but definitely add it in sooner rather than later for the intense dogs.

  • If you have a large dog or a dog that likes to hold toys deep in their mouth, make sure you play with a larger ball (bigger than a tennis ball). Possessive dogs will sometimes try to swallow a ball if it's small enough and that will cause them to choke. This also sometimes happens with super fast medium-large dogs when they grab the ball just right it can get lodged in their throat.

  • Fetch is a great opportunity to incorporate some of your obedience training! Your dog should be able to wait while you throw the ball, come back to you, and drop it on command. But in addition, you can work on a variety of skills (sit, down, hand touch, heel, collar grab, etc) in between throws!

  • Don't exercise multiple dogs together, until they are doing well individually. You do not want your other dog to pick up bad habits from the other.

  • If playing fetch with multiple dogs, practice having them take turns in between throws. This not only prevents possible collisions, scuffles, one dog hogging the ball/toy from the other, but also is a way to practice a high level of impulse control!

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