8 Reasons Why Exercise Is Essential for a Healthy & Happy Dog

Posted by TF Oren
dog in snow

Exercise is crucial for a healthy body and mind. This holds true not just for humans, but for dogs, too.

Unfortunately, many dog owners ignore this basic health requirement for a variety of reasons, sometimes because it's simply inconvenient.

Too bad.

Being a responsible dog owner means keeping your dog healthy and happy. That means, among other things, making sure your best friend gets daily exercise.

Here are eight reasons why your dog NEEDS exercise:

dog fetch

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.

If your dog is wreaking havoc inside, it might be time to step up the fitness routine.


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.

Borns-Weil says:

"While being old is not a disease, it is important to get advice from your dog's veterinarian about how much exercise and what types of exercise are appropriate for an individual senior 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.

dog and man at park

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!

dog fetch

4. Exercise Keeps Joints Healthy

Whether you're a human or a dog, the fact is, a sedentary lifestyle is an unhealthy lifestyle.

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.

Just be sure you consult your dog's veterinarian before you initiate or change the exercise regimen to make sure the changes are appropriate to your dog's general body condition and fitness level.

dog fetch

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."

Making exercise into a fun task is immensely rewarding for your dog's mind and body. Try making a dog obstacle course in the backyard or refresh your dog training for extra mental exercise.

dog jump

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.

dogs in water

7. Play Teaches Social Skills

It's important your dog learns how to play well with others. Social situations teach important skills that translate to scenarios outside the dog park.

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!

dog walking

8. Exercise Promotes Obedience

Increasing your dog's activity level could be the key to improving his obedience.

When you spend time playing with your dog and teaching him new things, you're strengthening your bond. Time spent together builds trust and improves your relationship on all fronts.

A tired dog is a well-behaved dog!

What's your physical exercise routine with your dog like? Tell us about it in the comments section!

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8 Reasons Why Exercise Is Essential for a Healthy & Happy Dog