We all lead busy lives- sometimes too busy to get our pets out for regular exercise. However, our pets need exercise as much as we do, especially if they are asked to stay at home all day without any stimulation.
Activity is not only important for physical stimulation, but is also important for mental stimulation. Mental stimulation is now being listed as a basic need for many captive animals (along with food, water and shelter). Dogs that do not get a sufficient amount of exercise may be predisposed to medical problems such as diabetes, along with joint and muscle issues. Also, dogs that do not get enough exercise are prone to behavioral problems – often these can be destructive in nature.
Some of the more major problems include separation anxiety and weird behavior quirks called stereotypies (like chewing on kennels doors or self-mutilation). Dog that lack stimulation may develop bad habits like urinating or defecating in the house. However, the more common problems are simply destructive. Dog left alone with no stimulation are looking for things to do, so they may chew up shoes, curtains, furniture, or whatever else they can get a hold of- causing extensive and expensive damage. This chewing can lead to expensive repair and sometimes even veterinary bills.
Even if you have a big yard, simply letting your dog outside is not enough exercise for them. Your pets may need goal-directed activities. They don’t have to be complicated, just take a walk around the block, or throw a favorite dog toy or run around the yard with them; the exercise will do you good too!
There are many dog friendly parks and trails across the country. Many places even have specialized dog parks–this is incredible stimulation for them, and can be the most exciting part of their day!
Check out your local community activities as well. Dog-related activities such as agility and fly-ball may be right in your neighborhood. It’s also a great way to get out of the house and meet people who are just as in to their pets as you are! Get creative, you can hide toys or treats around the house, go on a camping trip, or try a night time walk with a flashy new light!
As we get into the warmer months of the year, be sure to keep any vigorous activities to the early morning and late evening to avoid the hot summer time. Dogs can easily become overheated on warm summer days. Breeds with thick coats, short noses (like pugs) or any dog with breathing difficulties may be predisposed to heat stroke. On hot days, make sure your dogs gets regular breaks, access to water and shade and try to avoid long walks on black top or asphalt.