Different Ways to Exercise Your Dog
If you read my piece on German Shepherd Dogs, you know I have a GSD of my own named Baymax. He is pretty well-behaved … when he’s gotten enough exercise. I do my best to make sure he is getting enough, but as a 1-year-old puppy with endless energy, I sometimes have trouble fulfilling all his needs. I am always looking for different ways to exercise him; new ways or tried-and-true ways, anything that will wear him out. While some types of exercise seem to be straightforward and natural to dogs, they don’t always come that easy. Here are a few different ways to exercise your dog, and how to train your dog to do them.
This pup already knows his favorite toy! (photo credit Michael Gil)
When I was 12, my family got a Black Labrador Retriever puppy that we named Moxie. This dog loved to fetch, and it came very naturally to her. She would play it until she was sprawled out on the ground, too exhausted to play anymore. So, when I got Baymax last year, I assumed he would take to fetching just as well as Moxie had … but I was wrong. He liked his toys, but when I would take one and toss it for him to fetch, he would just look at me with disdain like “why would you do that?!”
Fortunately, he loves to fetch now. Nowhere near as much as Moxie, but he can get a good 30 minutes in, as long as a squirrel doesn’t run by. It took some training to get him to understand the concept of fetching and retrieving though. There are different techniques to approach teaching your dog to fetch, depending on whether your dog is crazy for the toy and will chase it but not bring it back, or the “sit and stare” variety like how my own dog started out. A good starting point is finding the right toy. Once you get the right toy, you can start taking training steps to get your dog motivated to learn.
These dogs are itching to take a swim! (photo credit kolter homes)
Swimming is a favorite pastime and energy-eater for many dogs, and some take to it like a fish to water. The word doggy-paddle is so common, you would just assume that all dogs are natural swimmers. That is not the case. Some dogs don’t even like water. My boy started out scared of water, but with the summer being so hot, and him being mostly black, he quickly discovered how submerging his entire body in the water felt good, and he quickly decided he was a water dog. This was mostly done in a kiddie-size pool in the backyard, so when he encountered a pond that was deeper than he was tall, the poor guy didn’t know what to do when his head went under water. Now I knew I need to train him how to swim.
If you have a young dog who hasn’t spent much time around water, you will want to look into what you need to know to teach your dog how to swim. Be sure to look into your dog’s breed to see if they have the potential to swim. Though the general assumption is that all dogs can learn to swim, there are actually breeds that are generally not good in water. Next, you’ll want to slowly get them used to water, and not push them to do more than they are comfortable. For my dog, it helped him to be around his best buddy, a yellow lab, who encouraged him to jump in the kiddy pool with her. For yours, it may mean getting in the water with them. Be patient, and slowly introduce them to more and more water. Once they start getting into water too deep for them, be prepared to get in there and help them if they look like they’re struggling. With patience and support, your dog will learn to swim!
While we always think about different ways to exercise your dog in terms of their physical needs, we sometimes forget about their mental exercise needs. Dogs are smart, and they need activities that will stimulate their mind. This rings especially true for working breeds. Working breed dogs have been bred to learn and carry out specific tasks, and the constant mental work keeps them happy and eager to please. German Shepherd Dogs are one of the most notorious working breeds, and when I don’t work my dog’s mind, he gets bored … and destructive. As Baymax is just my pet and companion, I don’t have the know-how to work him like a career dog (police, disability service, etc), but I have found fun ways to help work his mind.
It’s a fact that dogs have up to 100,000 times stronger sense of smell than humans, so it stands to reason that using their nose is part of using their mind. One fun way to get your dog to exercise his mind and nose is to set up a “treasure hunt” for him. Hide treats throughout the house under and in things, so not only will he have to sniff them out, but he has to work to get them. You can also use treat toys to help stimulate the mind. There are a number of dog toys out there that you can fill with treats, then your dogs have to work to get them out. I have invested in some treat toys, and let me tell you, they are worth every penny.
Be aware of all the rules! (photo credit Storey Bark Park)
Sometimes you just don’t have the energy to take your dog for that two-mile run or the hour-long hike. Life happens, but we still need to find a way to exercise our pups. This is where the dog park is a lifesaver. I take Baymax to a dog park at least once a week, and it’s the most efficient exercise he gets. He loves other dogs (probably more than he loves me) and when he finds a good buddy who matches his level, they can run each other much harder and longer than I ever could.
Before you take your dog to a dog park, you need to assess if your dog is ready for the dog park environment. Dogs that are fearful, not well socialized, and have aggressive tendencies should not be taken to dog parks, as they are more likely to start a fight. Your dog should also be up-to-date on their vaccinations, as dog parks are an easy place to spread canine disease. Dogs that thrive well at dog parks are well socialized and have friendly personalities towards other dogs and humans. Also, make sure you are being a responsible owner. Don’t just take your dog, release him, then sit in a corner waiting for your dog to be done – be attentive! Watch your dog’s body language and make sure he is playing nice, and that he isn’t being bullied by another dog whose owner isn’t paying attention. Also be sure to pick up after your dog – dog parks have hundreds of visitors every day, and if no one were to pick up their dog’s poop it would quickly become overrun with feces.
As you can see, there are many different ways to exercise your dog. Making sure your dog is properly exercised is important for you and your dog’s sanity. An unexercised dog is a bored and destructive dog. Dogs can even become depressed when their needs aren’t being met. An exercised dog is a happy and healthy dog.
“4 Different Ways to Exercise Your Dog”
Guest Writer: Mila Sanchez is a writer and recent college graduate with a BA in Linguistics. Her ambitions in life include traveling the world, studying languages, and taking pictures of her dog, Baymax. See tons of pictures of Baymax on her Instagram: @milaneechan
Other Articles by Mila Sanchez:
- Therapy Dogs Have Many Uses : Animal Assisted Therapy
- Working German Shepherd Dogs: Not Just a Pretty Face
- Pet Friendly Workplace Trend is Growing
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Can you think of other ways to exercise your dog?
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