Dogs require both mental and physical exercise every day.
In the wild, dogs get both types of exercise while hunting for food. When dogs first became our companions, they also got a full day’s worth of activity. Those dogs helped us hunt, herd, pull, protect, and a wide range of other tasks.
The modern pet dog however, is often given all of his food in large silver bowls. He spends his days at home alone, with very little to keep him occupied. When dogs do not receive proper exercise, they get frustrated and devise ways to entertain and challenge themselves.
This is when they become destructive and chew up our house or belongings.
Bored dogs may also decide to escape and go find adventure elsewhere.
Some dog owners may lock their dog up in a room or crate to prevent these destructive or dangerous behaviors. However, that only suppresses the symptoms. The underlying issue of insufficient exercise and activity still remains. Dogs that are locked up for long periods of time usually develop behavioral issues such as non-stop barking, separation anxiety, and dog aggression.
To prevent destructive and aggressive dog behaviors, it is important to exercise our dog well, every day. Here are some fun dog exercise ideas.
Dog Exercise Activity 1
Teach our dog something new.
Learning new commands and new tricks is a fun way to exercise a dog, both physically and mentally. It can also be a lot of fun for us!
All healthy dogs are capable of learning new tricks, whether they are young or old. It is good practice to continue teaching a dog new commands throughout his life. This will help keep him sharp, and help keep us sharp too.
Dog obedience training is best achieved through reward methods. Through the use of rewards, we can encourage a happy dog that is more willing to work. Through reward training we can build a stronger bond with our dog that is based on cooperation and trust, rather than fear and dominance.
Dog Exercise Activity 2
Give our dog a job.
Dogs are happiest when they get to engage in activities that they were bred for.
I have a Shiba Inu and a Siberian Husky.
The Shiba Inu is a hunting dog. They were used to track and flush out small prey from bushes. My Shiba Inu is happiest when he gets to exercise his hunting instinct through chase games, such as flirt-pole and the water hose game. The laser dot game has similar chase properties, but it can cause dogs to develop behavioral issues. This is because the laser dot is not something tangible that the dog can ever ‘catch’.
Siberian Huskies can hunt and they can also work. They were bred to pull people and goods through heavy snow. They are also good hunters because their original breeders, the Chukchi, would let their Siberian Huskies free in the summer to hunt for food on their own.
A popular Siberian Husky sport is dog sledding. One or more dogs are attached to a sled, and they pull it across snow and ice. Some people even compete in dog sled racing.
The Iditarod is one of the most famous dog sled racing competitions. However, it has also received criticism from animal rights groups because some dogs have died or have been injured during the race.
Some Siberian Husky owners take up dog skijoring. This is a winter sport where a person on skis is pulled by one or multiple dogs. If snow is not available, we can consider dog carting. Instead of attaching a sled to our dog, we attach a cart.
There are a variety of other dog sports including dog agility, flyball, lure coursing, and many more. In any dog sport, it is important to use the proper equipment, to train our dog on what he is supposed to do, and to always keep him safe.
Do not push our dog too far, too fast, and always put his health and welfare first.
I do not do pulling activities with my Siberian Husky because she is a three legged dog, and carrying heavy loads would put added stress on her leg joints. However, she has the job of keeping my backyard free of pests.
She is very good at keeping away voles and other earth critters. She also likes playing chase games, and relishes in chasing after the squirrels that live nearby. Sometimes, she helps to re-landscape my backyard. She is allowed to dig in a designated hill area in the backyard, and sometimes, I will bury some food toys for her to dig up.
Dog play is very important for helping a dog stay happy and balanced. Set aside some time every day and engage our dog in activities that he enjoys and has been bred to do.
Dog Exercise Activity 3
Walk with our dog.
Walk with our dog at least once every day for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Two walks a day is even better. Do it once in the morning before we leave for work, and once in the evening when we get home. Leash train our dog so that he does not pull or bite on the leash while walking. This will help make neighborhood dog walks a pleasant and happy experience for everyone.
Walking in a nearby park can also be a fun way to exercise our dog. Make sure to pick a park that is appropriate for his temperament. If he is aggressive towards other dogs, then only bring him to parks that have fewer dogs. My Shiba Inu is reactive to other dogs so I visit the park earlier in the morning when it is less densely populated.
Most parks have a mix of on-leash and off-leash areas. Frequently the high-traffic areas are all on-leash, while the side trails are off-leash. Make sure to follow the leash rules even if our dog is not aggressive. There may be other on-leash aggressive dogs around that may get into a fight with our dog if he invades their space.
For the safety of everyone involved, have our dog close to us at all times. In this way, we can easily call him back if we should meet up with an on-leash dog.
An alternative to neighborhood walks is to put our dog on a treadmill. Treadmills have become popular recently because they are often used by Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer as a form of dog exercise.
Treadmills are a convenient form of exercise that saves us the time and effort of going out, as well as helps us stay warm and dry during inclement weather.
However, neighborhood walks help us build a much stronger bond with our dogs. During walks, dogs get to explore the environment, smell social markers (urine) left by other dogs, and get comfortable with new objects and people. This type of exploration provides invaluable mental stimulation for our dog and helps build confidence, which treadmill exercise never will.
My dogs love to smell and explore. They especially love going to the park because there are many new and interesting smells there.
Always supervise a dog carefully when he is on a treadmill, and make sure not to over-exercise him, especially during hot weather. A treadmill may be used to occasionally supplement neighborhood walks, but it is not a replacement for it.
Dog Exercise Activity 4
Find our dog some canine companions.
No matter how hard we try, we will never be able to play like another dog. Dogs have thick skins, large teeth, and are extremely agile. They also have good control of where they place their mouth and how hard they bite.
Both my dogs love wrestling with each other, playing chase, and playing tug.
I do not rough-play with my Shiba Inu, because he is a highly excitable dog, The few times that I played Tug-of-War with him, he started leash biting during walks. He also started acting rough with other people, which can be dangerous, especially for children and seniors.
Now I institute a no rough-play rule with all people. However, he still gets to fulfill his needs for wrestling and biting with other dogs.
For single dog households, we can consider dog daycare. This will socialize our dog with a variety of other dogs, in a highly supervised environment. In this way, he gets comfortable with new dogs, gains confidence, and is less likely to show dog-to-dog aggression.
An enclosed dog park is another option but there are many risks associated with it.