Exercise is crucial for a healthy body and mind. This holds true not just for humans, but for dogs, too.
Here are eight reasons why your dog NEEDS exercise:
1. Exercise Is a Great Defense Against Anxiety
"Because exercise decreases anxiety overall, lack of exercise can contribute to anxiety-based conditions," says Dr. Stephanie Borns-Weil, a veterinarian and clinical instructor at Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. "More specifically, lack of exercise and mental stimulation can lead to attention-seeking and destructive behaviors."
Dog owners who take the time to make sure their dogs get sufficient daily exercise and stimulation are far less likely to come home to a house that has been torn apart by an anxious, neglected-feeling dog.
2. Activity Slows the Aging Process
Getting old is a part of life. However, keeping aging dogs physically active and mentally stimulated helps ward off certain age-related afflictions, says Dr. Borns-Weil.
The key is figuring out what the appropriate activity level is for your aging dog.
Monitor your senior dog after exercise sessions. If he seems stiff or has difficulty moving around after an intense day at the park, it could be a sign that you need to dial back the amount of exercise or simply find a different, less taxing activity.
3. Exercise = Bonding
What better workout partner than the one who always shows up and never complains?
Your dog is a built-in exercise buddy. Exercising together benefits both of you in terms of general health and strengthening your bond. It's an engaging, shared activity - perfect for bonding and boosting that heart rate!
4. Exercise Keeps Joints Healthy
Joints need to be put through their full ranges of motion. Regular exercise is one of the best ways to keep everything moving and keep your dog from developing mechanical issues related to a sedentary lifestyle.
5. Exercise Gives Your Dog a Job to Do
It feels good to perform a job successfully. The same is true for dogs, especially the working breeds.
Our dogs' ancestors were bred to work. Herders, hunters, guardians - they all had jobs. Those instincts don't just go away. Think active dog breeds like Australian Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Vizslas, just to name a few.
According to Borns-Weil:
"Dogs like to have a job. If a dog does not have a breed - and age - appropriate job, for example, chasing a Frisbee, he'll give himself a job, such as barking excessively at passersby or turning over the trash."
6. Exercise Stimulates the Mind
A well-structured, creative exercise routine provides not only physical benefits, but mental ones, too.
Chances are many of us stop introducing our dogs to new physical activities and teaching them games and tricks once they grow out of puppyhood. Try teaching your dog a new game or activity to jumpstart the mental engine. It will force him to dig out his thinking cap and put that brain to work.
For the canine brainiacs out there, consider enriching new challenges such as flyball and agility courses! Puzzle toys and food puzzles are also good to have around the house. There are plenty of fun ways to challenge your good dog.
7. Play Teaches Social Skills
Dr. Borns-Weil says:
"Exercise can and should be part of a whole program of exposure to other dogs, people, and environmental stimuli...This is necessary for proper socialization, particularly during young puppyhood."
Quality time at the dog park promotes socialization and ensures that dogs - especially the youngsters - are getting enough exercise. A relaxed stroll around the block twice a day just isn't enough for most dogs, says Borns-Weil. Try a good game of chase or play fetch at the dog park!
8. Exercise Promotes Obedience
What's your physical exercise routine with your dog like? Tell us about it in the comments section!
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