You want to give your toy pup the best life, and that includes plenty of exercise. But exercise isn’t just about maintaining healthy weight: exercise also stimulates their minds, gives you some together time with your best friend, and “go outside and play” can cure many behavioral issues!
Dog parents can be challenged to find the right outlet for their dog’s energy when they find out just how much exercise even a small dog really needs. Here are the best ways to approach exercise for our diminutive canine friends.
1: Health and safety first Always follow your vet’s recommendations about the right amount and intensity of exercise for your dog! Safe exercise guidelines include:
- Brachycephalic dogs like Pugs or Bulldogs are not built for hard aerobic exercise. Their shortened muzzle impedes airflow, they overheat easily, and they can literally suffocate if pushed past their physical limits.
- Don’t exercise your dog right after meals. Just as you were cautioned not to swim for 45 minutes after eating, don’t take your dog for a run or bike ride right after breakfast!
- Adjust for the weather. Extremely hot or cold weather can lead to heatstroke or frostbite.
- Warm-up and cool down. Don’t expect a dog who’s been running hard, to suddenly stop and lie quietly on the dog bed. Always help your dog cool down physically and mentally with a nice slow walk.
- Hydrate wisely: offer small amounts of water every 15-20 minutes; more often in hot weather.
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2: Put them first. Make it a priority to spend active time with your dog every day. Don’t assume they’re getting enough exercise just because they’re little and can race around the house at 100 mph and follow you around all day. Breeds like Pugs often need a lot more exercise than they’re given, which contributes to the perception that Pugs are naturally fat.
3: Walk… faster! Most healthy toy dogs need 30-60 minutes of exercise every day. So do you… making going out with your furry buddy for a daily walk is a win-win! Dog owners walk on an average of 22 minutes every day (only 50% of non-dog-owning Americans get that much exercise). However, a leisurely stroll around the block doesn’t offer enough in the way of “steam-burning” for young or energetic dogs, unless you pick up the pace.
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4: Let them smell ALL the smells. Explore beyond your normal routine, to stimulate your dog’s mind. Dogs love the familiarity of checking in on their favorite spots in the neighborhood, but doing the same walk every day can get boring for both of you. Your dog wants to smell ALL the smells, so explore new hiking trails or change up the neighborhood walk.
5: Mix it up to keep it interesting for both of you:
- Intensity: fetch/frisbee, agility games, jumping, chase
- Long, slow endurance exercise: leash walks
- Freestyle exercise: (mix of more intense bursts of activity with slower movement) off-leash hikes; dog park; swimming; tug-of-war
- Moderate intensity/moderate endurance: running (jogging) suitable to your dog’s breed and health; short bike rides
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6: Visit the dog park, but only the right dog park. Dog parks can be great for doggy playtime and socialization…but the reality is not always ideal. Not all dogs play well with others, and some dog owners are totally clueless about what is socially acceptable canine behavior. Be judicious in your choice of dog parks (the bigger the better, and with a small-dog area) and avoid them if your dog is the target of, or the cause of, any aggression.
7: Go for a run! Running with your dog is great exercise… but keep a few things in mind.
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- Do not start running with your dog unless your vet has cleared your dog for it.
- Running is high-impact whether you run on pavement or trails. Sustained running is generally not suitable for chondrodystrophic dogs (dogs with shortened or bowed limbs, like Dachshunds or Corgis) or for young dogs who are still growing.
- Running is cardio-intensive so it’s not suitable for most elderly dogs, brachycephalic dogs, or overweight dogs.
- Know your breed and choose the right distance for your dog. Most toy dog breeds are not built with endurance running in mind and many breeds have specific physical limitations that influence how far and how fast they can run.
- Start slow and help your dog build fitness rather than expecting him to run a 5k with you right away, and keep in mind the breed’s needs, temperament, and physical limitations.
- Choose trails rather than pavement. The pavement is hard on their joints and can be extremely hot. If you can’t comfortably keep your palm on the pavement, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws.
- Take frequent water breaks but give them water in relatively small doses; don’t let them guzzle water on the run or afterward until they are completely cooled down, or they will throw up or possibly bloat.
- Watch the temperature: this is the #1 limitation as to how far a healthy dog can run.
Whichever type of exercise you choose for your canine best friend, dogs put an end to any excuses you have about not exercising. How can you resist that exuberant “let’s go outside and play” dance?
What are your Favorite Dog Exercise Ideas? Please share it below.