Dogs need exercise to maintain their physical health, to stimulate their brain, to prevent frustration and boredom, and to prevent excessive weight gain which can lead to dog obesity. It can be tricky to know what kind of exercise to do in order to keep them happy and entertained. They can’t talk but they sure give you signs and you will know when your dog is feeling bored.
The amount of exercise your dog needs will depend on the dog’s breed, age, health and individual needs. Golden Retrievers need way more exercise than a Pug and adult dogs need more exercise than puppies. It is imperative to do some research and understand your dog’s breed and personality in order to be able to offer them the best exercise methods.
Taking your dog every day for a long walk to the same place and literally just walk is not ideal if you want to stimulate your dog both physically and mentally. For example, 30 minutes of scent work in the park can be way more stimulating and tiring than 1 hour walk. They are dogs, with noses that smell way more than we do, they have 4 paws that run way more that we do, they have natural instincts such as hunting, chasing, etc. Just a walk won’t fulfil your dogs needs and your dog might develop unwanted behaviours such as excessive barking, boisterousness and many more.
Here’s some fun ways to exercise your dog..
1. Treasure hunt
This is a fascinating game and you can do it in the park or even at home.
Start by introducing the game to your dog. Get some delicious smelly treats and give the cue ” Find it ” out loud and in a happy tone. Throw a few treats on the floor and let your dog find them. In time they will understand that every time you say ” Find it ” there will be delicious treats for them to find and they will start using their nose. Once you have done this in a small area you can take your dog to the park or even use your whole house and hide the treats. You can put your dog away in another room for you to prepare the treasure hunt or you can increase the difficulty and work on your dog’s ” waits “. You can also use toys instead of treats. Spaniels will love to do this with a tennis ball.
2. Tracking work
Be prepared to run.
This is a job that a lot of working dogs do, such as police dogs. It is very complex but you can use the basics with your dog. It is amazing to observe how they find things without knowing where they were in the first place.
Start by introducing the game in a small area like your garden. Check which way the wind is blowing. Place a delicious smelly treat in the far end of the garden and make sure it’s the opposite direction where the wind is blowing, to help your dog so the scent can be easily found. Get your dog a harness to avoid pulling on a collar and a long lead so you can give your dog space to run ahead of you. Grab the long lead, give the cue ” Find it ” out loud and in a happy tone and follow your dog. If your buddy runs, then you run, if he stops, then you stop. It is likely for your dog to have the nose glued to the ground sniffing. If you see the nose up and sniffing the air, then it is likely the scent is lost and it is trying to find it again. This is great exercise for owners as well and build up the connection between owner and dog. You are trusting your buddy to lead you and the dog will know that.
3. Tug Play
Dogs tend to love this game but they usually never want to let go of the toy. It is very good to play this game with your dog but always in the right way. You will be in charge of when to start and when to finish the game.
Start introducing the game by hiding the toy behind your back. Ask your dog to sit, show your dog the toy out of his reach. If your dog jumps to get it, hide the toy again and wait for your dog to sit. Do the same again and if you dog is patiently waiting, give a release cue such as ” Okay “, ” Go “, etc. Play tug with your dog for a while then when you want it to release the toy, place a delicious ( high value ) treat on the dogs nose and say ” Drop “. Your dog will automaticity drop the toy and choose the food. Repeat this all over again until you don’t want to play any more. Then put the toy away and give a cue to finish the play such as ” enough “, ” Done “, etc. There are dogs who are not very food driven and just love the toy. There are ways to make them drop without touching the dog
4. Dog Training
Dogs love to please and to work for a treat. It is a great way of stimulating their brain and I guarantee you they will feel tired after it. Training should start when your dog is still a puppy and build it up from there. If you are planning in going for an hour walk, why not split that hour and do some training with your dog. Think of what needs working on and what you would like to achieve with your dog and do it. Make things fun and read your four pawed friend. If you see it’s getting boring then try something else. Get help from a dog trainer and do some sessions. The dog trainer will give you homework and that will make it easier for you to know how to work with your dog.
5. Hide and Seek
This is my favourite game and dogs love it.
Like the name says, you Hide and your dog Seeks. This is also very good for Recall. I usually use the cue ” Come “. You can use your dogs name followed by the cue ” come ” or whichever cue you use for recall. Start by doing it at home. Also a very good way to practice your dog’s ” waits “. Ask your dog to wait and off you go. Once you have spotted the perfect hiding spot, call your dog and wait to see what happens. If you see it’s taking a while, give some help and call your dog again.
6. Dog Day Care
Dog day cares are a very good way to stimulate your dog both physically and mentally but it needs to be the right one. Having your dog at a day care just for the sake of running around and being left to their own devices it’s a NO NO. Unfortunately that tends to happen so it is very important you do your research and find out the best dog day care camp for your dog. How will your dog be stimulated ? What activities do they do? Ratio of dogs per handler? Canine First Aid Course? Make sure you know the answers to these questions. After all it is your dog and you want the best for your 4 pawed family member.