Your dog needs exercise, but how much and how strenuous should it be? The amount and type of exercise that is good for your dog depend partly on the body structure which is characteristic for his breed, but also on the age of your dog and his individual character traits as well as his current physical condition. Large, long-legged dogs are certainly recommended to have several long walks a day, plus various other activities where they can get a really good workout. However, this amount and type of exercise would most likely be too much for smaller dogs. For this reason, when planning an activity, you should always remember that not only you but also your dog should get enjoyment out of it. If you overexert him, this can have as harmful an effect on his health as too little exercise. You should exercise particular caution when exercising puppies or older dogs. The following four suggestions will help you organise your leisure time and give you a few ideas for activities that you can do together with your dog.
Jogging with your dog
Do you like jogging and have a large, long-legged dog? Then why not take him with you and see whether you and your dog both enjoy it! Start by going for short, easy distances on level ground. Once you start noticing that your dog is not completely dog-tired afterwards, then you can gradually start increasing the distance and duration of your jog. Regardless of how long you jog for, remember that your dog also gets thirsty. It is therefore essential that, in addition to taking your own drinking bottle along, you also take your dog’s needs into account. Also remember that your dog is more sensitive to heat than you are. Therefore, preferably try to schedule your run for the coolest parts of the day. On a hot summer’s day, you should also avoid jogging on tarred surfaces, as your dog does not have any shoes to protect his paws from hot streets.
- energetic breeds, preferably large, long-legged dogs;
- your dog’s obedience is vital, especially his response to the “come” and “heel” commands.
Your large, long-legged dog enjoys jogging, but it is not strenuous enough for him? Then why not take him along on your next cycling tour! Again, start with short distances and increase them gradually.
Cycling with your dog
Every dog owner enjoys the healthy walk they can have with their dog but have you ever considered cycling instead? If you have a medium-sized to large, active dog of at least 1.5 to 2 years old but not at a more senior age, cycling could be the ideal activity for you both.
Just get on the bike and go?
In principle you only need two things to go bicycling with your dog: the bike and the time to do it. If your dog responds to the command “heel” and will run on a loose leash beside you and your bike without pulling you can just choose a distance suitable to your dog’s condition and start. If your dog does not yet follow all of your commands you will need some time and patience until you and your dog can enjoy a safe time with the bike.
At first, you have to train your dog to respond to the command “heel” and be sure that your dog will follow this command willingly. For your own and also your dog’s safety you have to be sure that your dog will also obey when other dogs or people distract him. After that you can train the command “heel” during cycling. Put a leash on your dog and pedal short distances at walking speed on paths with no traffic where your dog will not get distracted. When this works well you can gradually start to train in an area where you might also meet other people or dogs. If your dog gets distracted and pulls at the leash despite of your command you should react at once. Stop the bike and call your dog. If your dog returns to you compliment him and give it another try. You may now gradually extend the distance of the tours and also increase speed. However, you should always take care to avoid pushing your dog too far so that he gets hurt or injured or begins to dread going out with you on the bike.
Cycling with your four-legged friend: tips and tricks
Plan a longer bicycle tour carefully:
- Choose a route with low or no traffic
- Avoid longer distances on hard surfaces (e.g. tarmac). Your dog’s pads prefer the soft ground of fields and woods.
- Consider the health and condition of your dog when choosing the route
- Your dog will get thirsty! Therefore, you always take water in sufficient quantity for your four-legged friend.
The right speed is important
- Take care that your dog always walks on the safe side of your bike (not on the road side)
- Is your dog leashed? In this case it is advisable to fix the leash to a harness and not to a collar. In that way you will prevent straining of the dog’s neck and throat.
- For both your safety, never wrap the leash around your wrist or the handle bars when cycling. If your dog suddenly pulls at the leash this might lead to serious accidents.
- Do you allow your dog to run free enabling him to explore the environment and follow his own needs? It is important that your four-legged companion has the freedom for these activities. However, take care that you are in an environment with low traffic and that your dog follows the command “come” at once.
- For your dog’s sake do not go on a bike tour when the weather is excessively hot. Always keep in mind that the dog is not able to take his coat off!
- Your dog should have fun but not be over-strained. Therefore, you should always maintain a speed that is suited to the dog’s abilities.
- Also your dog needs training! Start at the beginning with short tours of five to ten minutes and only slowly increase distance and speed.
- Allow your dog sufficient breaks to relax and to drink. Particularly in the case of longer tours and warm weather these rests are not optional.
- Observe your dog: Does he pant or is he running slower? Does he hang his head or does he quickly lay down during the rests and seems to be tired? These are clear signs that your four-legged companion is exhausted. Do not strain your dog too much, allow him a sufficiently long break and finish your cycling tour.
Hiking with your dog
Hiking provides a good opportunity to take your dog on a longer walk. However, your hiking tours should also be adapted to your dog’s condition and physical shape. This applies especially if you are planning a hill walk. First of all, practise walking longer distances on level ground and then start by mastering slight differences in altitude. If your dog is fit and he is enjoying it, you can proceed with longer walks of a greater degree of difficulty. However, always be aware of your responsibility towards your dog: take along sufficient water and, if necessary, food, and consider using a harness instead of a collar. When making a difficult ascent, this allows you to have better control of your dog. If you are planning to go on a tour lasting several days, you should prepare a first-aid kit and remember to pack your dog’s basket, blankets and towels in case he gets wet.
Keeping fit at the beach and in the water
If your dog loves the water, why not take him with you the next time you go for a swim in the sea! Whether you play ball on the sand or go swimming together, it helps your dog stay fit and strengthens your relationship with him. To ensure every chance of a successful day out, enquire beforehand about which beaches you may take your dog on and whether there are plenty of shady places where both you and your dog can seek refuge from the sun. Take along sufficient drinking water and, if need be, something for your dog to eat. If you go swimming with your dog, observe the same safety rules that you should also apply to yourself: never allow him to go swimming on a full stomach and do not send him directly into cold water. Give his body a chance to get used to the water. If you allow your dog to jump straight into the water on a hot day, just as with humans, this can lead to cardiovascular problems. If you then go and tire yourselves out, avoid strong currents and stay close to the beach so that your dog can make it back to shore after a strenuous swim always under his own steam.
If you like playing Frisbee and your dog enjoys catching and fetching things, then this sport can be a wonderful opportunity to strengthen your relationship as a dog-human team. All you need is plenty of space and a proper dog Frisbee that you can buy from any good pet shop. Then it’s your turn: practise throwing the Frisbee so that your dog can catch it easily and reward him when he catches the disc and brings it to you. Playing Frisbee will help get your dog fit, increase his jumping power and improve his overall condition. However, it should be pointed out that this sport does bring with it an increased risk of injury.
Hint: You and your dog can perfect your Frisbee skills by joining your local dog sports club and see how well you both perform by taking part in Frisbee-catching competitions.