The benefits of exercise and stimulation are underestimated for both humans and dogs. But most of us don't realize that while we humans have Books, TV's, Day jobs, Intellectual conversations, etc. If we don't have a ready supply of things for our dogs to outlet into, your dog is left to fend for themselves. Most humans do not appreciate the jobs dogs assign themselves to in their homes.Your dog depends on you to exercise their bodies and stimulate their minds. Bringing dogs into our families is nothing new for us, however through modern technology and changes in environments, cities and suburbs making downsizing properties, desk jobs instead of labor jobs, etc. The breeds we often sought out help for on our farms, are now expected to behave quietly and calmly while we are away for 8+ hours at work and school, then again while we come home and try to relax. Often times owners are met by exuberant dogs ready to take on anything while the owners try to wind down after a long day. This is where most homes run into behavioral issues with their dogs. Chewing, digging, barking, increased aggression, hyperactivity, lack of focus etc. are just a few of the many side effects. Not only do dogs benefit greatly from regular exercise, but we as their owners benefit greatly with a balanced pet, who we can now enjoy the small things with. Exercise helps prevent boredom and channels the dog's energy in a productive and acceptable direction.
Physical benefits of exercise
Dogs who exercise regularly are not only healthier than those who don’t; they also live healthier, longer lives. One of the main benefits I find in exercised and stimulated dogs is you find a balance in their temperament. Dogs who previously bounced off the walls, jumped out of control on guests, family members, and had rude greetings with other dogs, calm down significantly into a well adjusted dog. A well stimulated and exercised dog will sleep for longer periods of time, and while awake will have better self control. A tired dog is a happy dog. Exercise helps them utilize more calories even when they are at rest, controlling their weight and muscle tone while keeping obesity at bay. Obesity in dogs is at an all time high in America. Often times Veterinarians are forced to confront pet owners about their pets obesity, leading owners to switch to a low fat, low calorie diet. In humans, saturated fats have been associated with clogged arteries and heart attacks. Fat is essential in a dogs diet and is actually a fantastic source of providing a concentrated source of energy, as well as supplying the Essential Fatty Acids that dogs cannot produce themselves. Dogs as well as other carnivores require a relatively high amount of animal fat in their diets. Looking at the percentages on your dog food bag, the optimum level of fat should be between 15-18%.
Removing fat from a dogs diet to compensate for the weight gain from lack of exercise, will only do more harm than good to your companions body. Finding time to offer these outlets for our dogs should be one of the top priorities along with food and water. Quick spurts of 10 minutes per day 2-3 times per day, or 2 hours a day of low impact exercise is enough to keep an average working breed satisfied. But physical exercise is only the beginning. Stimulating your dog can be anything from playing with a toy, obedience, agility, puzzle toys, to a simple game of fetch in the yard. Anything that can challenge your dogs mind will fulfill their needs. Hiking in the woods over unstable, new, and bizarre surfaces your dog has never been exposed to is a great form of both physical and mental exercise.
Psychological benefits of exercise
Exercise causes the brain to release endorphins, which create a sense of euphoria and well-being. Dogs, like humans feel this euphoric feeling after a good work out, making positive associations with whatever they are involved with during and after the fact. As adult humans we can get by without exercise, but have you noticed how hyper active children get without enough exercise and stimulation? We humans often convince ourselves that small increments of walking from one end of the office to the other is enough in our adult lives. For dogs, exercise is crucial to maintain healthy behavior and keep destructive impulses in check. For dogs with behavioral problems, the first treatment I recommend is increased exercise. Remember: "A tired dog is a happy dog."
I often find my clients surprised that after just one session of brief obedience teaching a dog minor behaviors, leaves their dog in a deep sleep before I leave their homes. This is the perfect example of a dog who has been stimulated and fulfilled for the day. Exercise and stimulation go hand in hand and even those that regularly exercise their pets, forget the value of stimulation. I get calls very regularly with clients who exercise their pets a great amount, yet still find their dogs out letting energy into destructive and undesirable behaviors.
Problems caused by lack of exercise
The benefits of exercise are astronomical, but the consequences of the lack there of are enough to make anybody reconsider their exercise schedule. Regular and age-appropriate exercise is especially important for young impressionable dogs. Stimulation helps the brain grow and develop properly to help the brain remain intelligent. Studies have shown that lack of stimulation for drives like Herding, Hunting, and Retrieving animals, will loose a significant amount of that drive because the brain grows to accommodate to its life style. Obesity is one of the leading causes of canine deaths. Overweight dogs can suffer from numerous ailments such as bone and joint disorders, weakness, poor muscle tone and heart problems. Overweight dogs are at greater risk for cancer, diabetes, joint disorders and respiratory problems.
Physical problems aside, lack of exercise and stimulation can lead to psychological problems such as sores caused by excessive licking or chewing of the skin, boredom and restlessness.
Your dog’s everyday physical and emotional health is a direct indicator of its exercise levels.
Dogs are not self motivating to exercise themselves sufficiently if they are stuck indoors or in a backyard all day. Often times they let their energy reach an all time high before you begin to notice severe changes in behavior. Leaving your pet in your backyard for hours at a time will not ensure proper exercise and often leads to a destroyed back yard.
Take the time to find out what motivates your dog to exercise. Bike Rides, Hiking, Fetch, long walks, Jogging, whatever your dog and you enjoy the most together. Be creative and don't feel obligated to stick to the same exercise your neighbor or family member uses. Your dogs individual size, temperament, personality, and your daily schedule will be the deciding factors in what works best for your exercise regimen.