It goes without saying that all healthy pups and dogs need adequate quality exercise/play along with appropriate mental stimulation to help them become and stay a happy and sound four legged friend. The following is a collection of hints and tips about exercising, play etc, it may jump from point to point but do read all of it for a fuller picture.

    Dogs running

    Firstly a couple of warnings;

    1. The first important rule I would like to say is that it is really important not to overdo exercise with any pup/juvenile, even more so with the pups/juveniles of the larger/giant breeds and breeds prone to joint problems, like retrievers for instance. If you do you risk affecting the proper development of the dogs growth plates and so risking joint problems of varying types later (sometimes quite early on) in the dogs life, leading to lifelong problems, regular trips to the vets, painful reduced movement and reduced participation in things for your dog and you. The same sorts of problems can manifest as a result of hereditary genes too so making sure mum and dad are physically sound (check screening certificates if a pedigree) is a must.
    If your young pup is playing up do not start taking them out for huge walks in the hope of using up their energy to help out your cause as you might well cause damage as above and future problems. When exercising your pup or young juvenile early on be careful (hard I know) to not let them go mad on very uneven, clumpy, hilly or steep ground including steps etc as it is widely accepted that trauma (like a very bad stumble and twist) can lead to the development of joint problems in the affected region later in the dogs life (in a breed with a genetic predisposition to it, like retrievers, many giant breeds and others). Be careful with all pups really!
    Most pups or really juvenile dogs need to be at least a year old before serious hard exercise sessions are undertaken and the giant breeds more like a year and a half or Two really. Whatever breed or crossbreed you have taken on do some proper research on the breed or the main breed in your crossbreed and find things of this nature out; preferably do this before you get your dog/pup.

    2. Another important rule to remember is not to strenuously exercise your dog before or straight after eating. Give them a couple of hours after exercising rigorously before carrying out any feeding. Refrain from any strenuous exercise in the two hours after feeding otherwise you risk the chance of stomach problems developing, bloat for instance (a gas filled stomach), or worse a twisted gut; very painful for the dog and can be life threatening. This is more prone to happening in the deep chested breeds like GSD'S, Ridgebacks, Labs, Setters, Boxers, Great danes, and is more likely with dogs that bolt their food also. A gentle walk round the block on a lead would be OK (not immediately after eating though) and if a pup a visit to the garden or yard to pee or poo (not play) after eating (as eating stimulates the pup to go) would be OK too, remember to treat and praise if they do go; “so it's good to pee and poo outside”.

    So let's have a look at exercising your pup/dog.

    With a pup/juvenile it is better if possible to do a few regular short walks a day rather than one long one, it's easier on the joints and staves of those boredom and anxiety issues. You should have regular play sessions in your house or garden and try to make some mentally stimulating as well as just play. Try to have at least 10-15 mins of interaction (as well as your walks) two or three times a day with your dog/s every day.
    You could employ a Kong stuffed with something nice for them to get out, not only tasty for them but also mentally stimulating as they have to get it out. You could hide small tasty morsels around the house or garden for them to find, start with things easy to find and gradually make it harder (your dog will enjoy this), I still do these things with my dog at 12 years old and he still loves it. Do not over do the hunting for food/treats though as you do not want to end up with a fat dog. If you do use lots of kongs with hard to get out fillings, say for a dog with anxiety issues, or just give treats too much, then cut down their meals appropriately.
    You can employ the use of a ball, Frisbee or other to help with the exercise but try not to let your dog become obsessive about one form of exercise only as other problems may manifest. You can use a tug of some description for a tug of war and you can let them win sometimes, just make sure that play does not become too rough or frenzied in respect of your dogs behaviour; especially if a terrier type or any with aggression/social problems as you may be unwittingly reinforcing the unwanted behaviour or bring it out in your dog; you should seek help here if you have these problems anyway.
    You can work on things that you have done at puppy training, regular little training sessions, but keep them short as puppies attention span will be short, five to ten minutes a few times a day would be good. Always try to finish on a good note. Puppies will sleep a lot, they will wake, play and run around for a short time and sleep again, this is normal behaviour.

    Training/play sessions with your older dog should be carried out too, I am a firm believer in letting a dog be a dog as much as possible and if your chosen dog is of a breed or crossbreed that has some strong genetically driven traits like scenting, pulling, swimming (when warm enough) etc then try to do some structured exercise that sometimes employs your dogs traits, your dog will enjoy them and be happier as a result, have a think about it and see what you can come up with, you will soon know if your dog is enjoying it and you can then use this play in the future.

    One thing that I often see is an owner running, cycling or just continually throwing something for the dog to retrieve with no other input. A dog, like us, needs variety. They also need to interact with the environment, other dogs and other people. While running or cycling non stop they can't do this, they have no choice in the matter. Some will say "Oh he loves it, and I'm being the boss", in truth they may be getting exercise but they are getting little if any mental stimulation, socialisation, chances to communicate or any of the things that dogs love to do. Dogs that just get this sort of exercise and no other will often be unsociable and mal adjusted in some way. Let a dog be a dog!

    Regular play with your dog is good for both of you, it helps with your bond with your dog/dogs, if your dog is enjoying him/herself they will associate this good feeling with the environment in which it is happening and you are obviously one of the main things in it so it extends to you. Behaviourists will use this associative learning to help with behaviour problems by associating good things with things that originally had a bad association to the dog. So, playing for your dog, with you and other members of your family is important, and should be fun for all.

    Variety is the spice of life for us and this also goes for most dogs too unless you have a dog with serious nervous/fear issues, aggression problems or others. Obviously if you have a dog with such issues get some professional help.
    For the majority of dogs going for their walks in a variety of places will be more enjoyable for them and will help in their socialisation. They will meet more dogs or rather different dogs which will give them more experience in dog interactions. They will find more different smells in the different environments and this will help most pups/dogs with the socialisation process, helping them cope with new things later on in life. Encourage your pup/dog to interact with other friendly (hopefully) dogs. Throughout these times you should try to have a jolly air about you so your friend thinks this is fun and not scary. If at some point your dog/pup seems to be scared by something in the environment they will probably look first to you for reassurance. Personally I think it is OK to give a quick reassuring gesture be that a voice or touch gesture but return quickly to your normal atmosphere, do not make it a prolonged reassuring gesture for fear of reinforcing your dogs perception that what has just happened was indeed very scary and something to be wary of in the future; this is how some issues may start, SOMETIMES VERY QUICKLY.
    Allow your dog to stop and sniff and pee when out and about in a safe environment, do not continually call or drag them away when they are carrying out such behaviour, they need to do this as much as we need to speak to other human beings to remain sane, it's what it's all about for dogs (see the /how-dogs-communicate topic).

    Some dogs will need more exercise than others and some will need more mental stimulation to remain happy. Do some homework on a breed you might be looking at to see if you can provide the necessary exercise and stimulation that may be required. For instance don't take a husky on if you only have ten minutes in the morning and evening to walk them round the block, they will misbehave through no fault of their own due to boredom, frustration and their needs not being met (see the /which-breed-dog-or-crossbreed-is-best topic).
    All of the above takes for granted that you have a fit healthy pup or older dog and do not already have a problem dog, if you do have a problem dog then get some professional help; the sooner the better.

    Read more on my /let-a-dog-be-a-dog page.


    Why not have a look at my first book - Elmer no ordinary wolf, a realistic novel about a wolf called Elmer, his family and their life. My hope is that you will learn much about wolves and mother nature, coming to understand why man first thought to domesticate these amazing social animals to give us our best friend, the dog. You might also like these excellent Kong toys.

    copyright 2013-22 Paul lindley