This article is contributed by Queena Lee, pawrent to a cockapoo pup @helloimtoffie. To Queena, responsible dog ownership means providing the best she can for Toffie, both mentally and physically. Since the day she got Toffie, it has been a constant learning process for both Toffie and her. She admits the process may not be easy at times, but it is definitely the most rewarding to become better together!
More often than not, overweight dogs are deemed cute by society to the point where physically fit dogs bear the label of being ‘too thin’. Not many dog owners can see the potential issues that these overweight dogs are facing. From orthopaedic problems due to the extra weight on their joints to high blood pressure, diabetes, even a decreased life expectancy of up to two and a half years and more. Are these what we want to put our dogs through? Ensuring that your furry friend has a balanced diet and ample exercise is the best way to keep them healthy and happy. Yes, dogs, like humans, NEED exercise. We’re not talking about going out for a quick potty break. We are talking about things like swimming, walking and even playing fetch. There are so many activities out there that allow both you and your pooch to have fun together!
How do you tell if your dog is of ideal weight?
Step 1: Feel the ribs of your dog. You should be able to feel the ribs with a thin layer of fat covering them.
Step 2: Look at them from the top or feel them if they’re fluffy. They should have a prominent waist tuck!
If you are not sure, always check in with your vet every now and then to ensure that they are maintained in the ideal weight range! Exercising does not only start when you begin to notice your pup gaining the extra weight. It should be a good habit that starts right from the very beginning. However, young puppies under the age of 3 months should be having short 15 minutes walk a few times a day to ensure that they are not overworked. Young puppies under the age of 10 to 12 months should also avoid long walks to prevent possible joint issues in the future since their growth plates are still open! Adult dogs should maintain a daily exercise level of about 30 minutes to 2 hours a day, depending on their physical requirements. Knowing the right amount of exercise your dog should be getting is very important but remember, more is not always better! So, how do you determine the amount of exercise your pooch should be having a day? There are multiple aspects that you should consider.
What is the breed of your dog?
Breeds that are bred to hunt, herd, retrieve and search tend to have a higher energy level and hence, requires more time dedicated to exercising. Toy dogs are smaller versions of another breed and are bred as companions or lapdogs, so they need lesser exercise than working breeds.
How old is your dog?
Younger pups require short walks multiple times throughout the day, whereas older pups require shorter walks as they have lower energy levels.
Your dog’s health condition
Dogs that have just completed surgery or are under rehabilitation are not allowed to run and jump around. While strenuous activities should be avoided for brachycephalic dog breeds (flat-faced breeds).
Your dog’s personality
Retrievers are often happy-go-lucky and would much prefer a game of fetch rather than roaming around to sniff. However, hounds wouldn’t care less about fetching and would very much prefer snuffling around everything they come across. Every dog is different. Adjust your dog’s exercise schedule to match their need for a more effective and healthy approach. With that being said, what are the benefits of maintaining regular exercise? No matter the age, size or breed, a well-exercised dog - both mentally and physically is a happy dog. On top of being healthy mentally and physically, exercising will reduce behavioural problems like peeing or pooping in the wrong spot, excessive barking and/or creating a mess out of everything they can get their paws on! More often than not, such behavioural problems stem from the lack of exercise, which proves just how important it is. A lack of exercise will cause the dogs to have extra pent up stress and anxiety, which leads to behaviours that many owners consider ‘destructive’, and their solution would be to throw them a chew toy. However, there is more to that. Many have the common misconception that exercising means going out for extended long walks, but more to exercise than just walking!
We definitely cannot miss out on swimming when it comes to having fun in the sun! Being in the water makes your dog work harder than when he is on land, improving muscular strength and tones the body! According to Veterinary Surgeon and Canine Physiologist Dr Arleigh Reynolds, 1 minute of swimming is equivalent to about 4 minutes of running! Research has shown that swimming is one of the best forms of exercise for our dogs. Not only is it beneficial to their overall health, but it is also a low-impact workout that can be great for overweight dogs. We love it whenever we find time to bring Toffie out for a swim! Other than the fact that it changes things from the usual land activities, he becomes super happy and tired after his hour-long swim session. What more can you ask for? If you haven’t brought your pup for a swim before, do try it! For all you know, he might be a water pup!
Training is also another excellent form of exercise! Make use of your walks to teach your pups proper leash etiquette or have training sessions to teach them cute tricks like high-fiving or useful tricks like ‘place’, all in the comfort of your own home. Training allows you to better control your dog while creating a bond between you and them through all that time spent together! It is also a great form of mental stimulation and exercise that is necessary for their lives. Dogs thrive on routine, so it is imperative that they have one. Although training is not an easy process, it will definitely be a rewarding one when you see an improvement in the quality of your life.
I am highly focused on Toffie’s training, be it for cute tricks or practical reasons; training is always a part of our daily routine. No treats come free in this house! When we are out, we are constantly working on his leash etiquette, impulse control and focus. If we are cooped up at home, we will be doing some cute tricks and place training. And when he receives tons of praise, his jubilant reaction is priceless, and I am incredibly proud when he follows his instructions well. So, it is a win-win situation for both of us at the end of the day!
Be it indoors or outdoors, fetch is a great way to play! It keeps your furry friend engaged and moving! Toy motivated fur pals would love this! Including a game of fetch and tug into your daily routine is not time-consuming at all! It might be something simple to you, but it means the world to your dog. TIP: If your pup does not have a reliable recall, keep a long line to make sure that they don’t run off!
You can clock in some physical exercise using treat-dispensing toys that make your pooches walk all around the house to get their food out! Like dog puzzles, treating dispensing toys are both mentally and physically exhausting, which is excellent when the weather isn’t on your side. On days where we cannot head out for our daily walks, these toys are what we reach out for! One of our favourites is Starmark’s Treat Dispensing Tetraflex. When paired with some of our favourite dehydrated treats, Toffie will be occupied for at least 20 minutes, which means more time for me to get things done! Recently, we have been playing with the Lambwolf Collective Nou toy a lot because, after his snuffling session, Toffie is always up for a game of tug, making the Lambwolf Collective Nou one of his favourites as well!
The multiple potty breaks that dogs go for? Turn them into a quick walk around the estate to clock in some exercise! Strolling around the area before and after work is also an excellent way to maintain an active lifestyle. For both you and your pooch. Walking is a part of Toffie’s routine by now. Friends who have met us before would know that we always prefer meeting up for a walk or a hike because why not? We get to exercise the pups and train them to have good manners around other dogs all at the same time! Toffie and I always aim to have at least 1 walk that lasts for an hour every weekday around our neighbourhood. We usually start off the walk with a bit of free-roaming around the area for potty and sniffing time before we start our actual walk and training. Whereas during the weekends, we would head out for a longer walk, which would last around 2 hours, on top of playtime he will get from people coming to visit him. Guess who loves the weekends more than the humans now?
Amidst all the walks and play, it is equally important to dedicate ample time for your pups to rest and wind down. You really don’t want to over exhaust your pup! Dogs that lack quality sleep are at risk of a weaker immune system and can affect their mood greatly. I understand that we all have days where we are so caught up with work and just can’t squeeze out time to give our beloved pooches what they need. Don’t worry, I’ve been there. Fret not, that’s what daycares, pet sitters and pack walkers are here for! These facilities will help you keep your pups entertained while you’re busy at work. Be it for a few hours, a whole day or just for a walk. Toffie goes on his structured pack walk once a week as well!
Now that you know the importance of exercise, get up and get out! Try something you haven’t tried, explore somewhere you haven’t been to, you might just realise that spending time out with your pup will do you just as much good!
All views expressed on this site are author's own and do not represent the opinions of any entity whatsoever. The purpose of the article is to share experiences and opinions in general. If you are seeking professional advice, please consult a professional.
Credit to sources:
http://k9aquaticcenter.com/about-the-center/the-benefits-of-swimming/ https://www.petcgfk.com/mental-physical-stimulation-is-your-dog-getting- what-they-need/ https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/fat-dogs-and-dog-obesity/ https://drpetmd.com/benefits-of-taking-your-dog-to-obedience-training/ https://johinds.com/2019/05/18/is-your-dog-getting-enough-sleep/
"What’s my dog thinking" by Hannah Molloy