All Things Dog

Create a custom exercise program for your dog

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Exercise plays a very important role in the overall health and well-being of your dog. A dog that's fit has more energy, sleeps better, and tends to have fewer health problems than dogs that are overweight and underactive. Regular exercise also helps to strengthen bones, muscles, and the cardiovascular system.

If your dog hasn't done much exercise in the past, it's best to start off slowly. In fact, before you get your dog started on any exercise program, you should take him to the vet first for a thorough checkup. You also need to take into consideration your dog's size and breed. For example, small dogs with short legs don't need to walk as long or as far as larger breeds. There are also breeds with short noses (such as Bulldogs, Lhasa Apsos, and Pekingese) that may have difficulty breathing while exercising. These breeds would benefit from frequent walks that are shorter in duration.

Getting started

Just as you would never rush out and run a triathlon without any prior training, you need to start your dog off slowly, and then gradually build up the stamina of your dog. Begin with 10 to 15 minutes a day of walking to let your dog build up his cardiovascular and muscle strength. Eventually, you can increase speed and work up to an hour a day—again, if it's appropriate to your dog's breed. After a few months, you both will be up for a good run.

Of course, you don't have to restrict your dog's exercise regime to just walking. A brisk game of fetch can also be a good workout, as is swimming (if it's suitable for your dog's breed and the climate). Though it's more time-consuming, agility and obstacle courses incorporate a range of activities and are great exercise for many dogs—and their owners.

A few things to remember

Dogs thrive on routine, so try to stick to your exercise schedule as much as possible. If the weather is bad, make the walk shorter or make up for it with an indoor exercise activity.

Watch for any signs of fatigue or labored breathing. Your dog loves to please you and will push himself beyond his own physical limitations if he thinks it will make you happy. Exercise to your dog's abilities, not yours. Avoid running or walking for great lengths on concrete and asphalt because they are hard on your dog's paws and joints. Grassy areas or dirt paths are best.

Avoid running or walking for great lengths on concrete and asphalt as it's hard on your dog's paws. Grassy areas or dirt paths are best.

Make sure your dog always has plenty of fresh water before, during, and after exercising. If you're going for a long walk or run, be sure to bring some water and an appropriate bowl-like object along for him.

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