Walking the Dog…
on May 21, 2011
Posted in Dogs
Seems like a simple thing…you have a dog, it needs exercise, you go for a walk. However, the question of how long, how often, how and where is dependent on a number of factors including age, activity level, size and breed.
Puppies need to run and play but taking them for long walks and especially running is not a good idea. Young animals are growing and their musculoskeletal system can easily become overtaxed. They are also not designed to run for very long. A sprint around a yard or house, or if they are running after something, they might go for a couple hundred feet and then stop. Joints, bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles of puppies are not designed for this, so let them go at their own pace and don’t overdo it.
Different types of breeds have different needs for exercise and activity… Hunting and working dogs generally need a lot of exercise. If you have a dog that fits into this category, or has this in his mix, you should plan on at least 2 – 45 minute walks a day. Longer walks or hikes in the woods will be a joy for these breeds, where they really get to work out their body and mind. These dogs also do well with games where they have to use their brain (especially border collie types), agility may also be an option if they are so inclined. There are many breed types that do not have a huge need to expend energy, smaller dogs like Chihuahua’s, all the way to the large breed Mastiffs. Everyone enjoys a nice walk but know your animals need for exercise and be sure they are getting enough physical activity but not too much!
How to walk the dog?
A simple collar and leash is OK for a dog that is good on leash but if your dog is difficult, there are lots of ways to keep them from being completely out of control. Our best recommendation is a harness with a front clip for the leash. This causes the dog to move sideways towards you when it pulls on the leash. It also avoids unnecessary strain on the dogs neck (and your arm and shoulder!), causing possible permanent damage to the trachea. We do not recommend pinch collars, shock collars or other harsh means to keep a dog under control. Get a good trainer and use a harness instead!
Where to walk your dog…
Our best recommendation for walking is where there is natural earth beneath their feet (as opposed to concrete) and to let them walk/run at their own pace. Walking on trails, at the beach or in a park on the grass is a wonderful way for your dog to get exercise with the least stress on the joints, spend quality time with you and of course connect with the earth! Lots of people run with their dogs but keep in mind, they are not designed to run for more than a couple of minutes. A dog will try to please you and keep up, but it’s very stressful for them. Same goes for riding a bike with a dog in tow. If you must tread on sidewalks, then keep it to a walk. Running on concrete is very hard on a dogs joints!
We love to see dogs off leash…but safe! Off leash dogs parks are great as long as everyone is getting along. You can also source out off leash trails and beaches. If you are worried about your dog running off, give them a really good incentive to come back. Treats and love work great but if you are having trouble, use a long line leash to start or seek a trainer who can help.
A great option for people who spend long hours at work and don’t have the time to appropriately walk their dog, is a dog walker. There are many companies doing this now so with a little research you can find someone reputable to take the dog out while you are gone.
Use common sense with older dogs, or those suffering from illness or mobility issues. They still need to get out but be sure to know how much is too much. You may have to drive to the park instead, or go for shorter walks a bit more often. Swimming is a fabulous alternative, especially for those with arthritis.
Happy walking everyone…and as the old saying goes “if your dog is fat, you’re not getting enough exercise!!!” 🙂
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan