-How often should you walk your dog?
-How long should you walk your dog?
-Is walking enough exercise for your dog?
-What if your schedule doesn’t allow you to walk your dog?
-How long is too long for your dog?
-What if it is too cold? What if it is too hot?
These are just a few of the questions we have been thinking about. My husband and I have been talking about an exercise plan that is right for our little guy, he is a King Charles who is under 20 pounds. What is the right exercise plan for your dog?
There are so many things to consider when thinking about and exercise plan, physical activity of course is the first thing that comes to mind, but there are many other things to consider as well.
First thing to consider is, how your dog is stimulated. For some dogs a walk in the park with no structure or reason would be enough for them to go home lay on the couch and feel totally satisfied for the day. Most dogs however, are not that simple. Most dogs require more than just a laid-back walk in the park. Particularly dogs from the working breeds. They need lots of stimulation to feel fulfilled. Stimulation doesn’t come in one neat package it is found in a variety of ways. Unlike human beings the cardiovascular system and muscular system are not the end of exercise for a dog. There are more things to be considered when attempting to fulfill your dog. Think of your dog holistically. Mental, Psychological, Emotional and Physical are all things to plan for in a daily routine for a contented dog.
Lets start with physical as it seems to be the most obvious. There are many ways to provide physical exercise for your dog. The walk is of course the average persons choice for their dog since it requires little knowledge or effort on the part of the human or the dog. Walking is mostly a physical task for dogs but it does sometime cross into other categories such as psychological and mental. When your dog meets others along the path you are walking then your walk has just become psychological. Your dog goes into a different mental state to try to understand the other dog. She might sniff the other dog or bark or jump on the new dog. These are all social behaviors that are somewhat instinct and somewhat taught. Another scenario might be use of the sense of smell. It is likely that other dogs or animals have walked the path you are using and therefore your dog may smell other animal odors such as skin oils, hair, urine, etc. That is a mental challenge for your dog. He has to decide to control himself and heed to you or become unruly attempting to go his own course likely to chase the thing he is smelling and leaving you behind.
Instead of analyzing each task for what it could become I think it would be easier if I just give a list of activities that correspond to the “Holistic Category.” I am in no way a dog behaviorist, these are my assessments after having many dogs and a variety of breeds over the course of my life as well as some knowledge I have acquired from good trainers I have used and books I have read.
Mental Psychological Emotional Physical
-Puzzle games -Play dates -Training (tricks etc) -Walking
-Agility -Frisbee (at the dog park) -Hiking (off leash) -Running
-Hide and seek -Playing fetch -Playing tug games -Swimming
*Since we are talking about excercise most of these things fit into the physical category. Also many cross over into other categories as well. I simply chose to make a list highlighting some exercises that are best suited to the category. Also there are many more ways to exercise your dog.
Here are the 3 steps we used to set a schedule for our dog. I use the term schedule loosely because are not really “list people” although sometimes we day-dream about how that could make our lives so much easier.
Step #1 Understand what your dog needs
We first looked our dogs needs. He is a small dog who is a scaredy-cat about everything, sleeps a lot, is mostly mellow, but cannot wait for his daily walk. So we derived from this that we needed to be sure to access his psychological needs a little more than his physical needs. We need to socialize him in a way that is fun and rewarding for him and not so overwhelming, to satisfy this need we are going to join a meet-up group and socialize him at least once a week. Thirty minutes of physical exercise is enough for our little guy, but you may need more. In addition we also enjoy teaching him new tricks and he enjoys puzzle games, these will be added to schedule as well.
Step #2 Understanding your schedule and who can help
I am a house-wife and my husband can set his schedule most days, we have the luxury of not having to ask for help, but I know this isn’t always the case. For those of you who just can’t fit a thirty or even twenty-minute walk into your schedule maybe you and your family members could split up the walk time. If one of you could walk him in the morning before work or school for 10 minutes and then someone else when you return home for another 10 minutes you are already up to 20 minutes, just be sure these are brisk walks not a slow stroll. Ask one more person to take a late evening or before bed walk if it is safe in your area to be out after dark (we have too many wild animals in our area) and there you have just made your 30 minute walking schedule for the day these might begin to correspond with bathroom breaks too which is just an added bonus if you don’t have a back yard where your pup can go without your supervision. If you cannot do this then maybe it would be a good idea to look into hiring a dog walker once or twice a week who can help carry some the burden of walking the dog. Also remember for some of these activities you can multi-task. If your dog loves to swim then in the summer you can take him to the beach where if possible you can be working on things you need to do, like your personal budget or returning phone calls you just haven’t been able to get to this week.
Step #3 Putting it down on paper.
Like I said we are NOT list people and tend to do things haphazardly. Therefore, if we don’t write it down with determination we probably will not stick to it. Here is what a week might look like for The Four Legged King.
Monday- 30 minute walk, 15 minutes of training tricks
Tuesday- 10 minute walk, 30 minute play date, Puzzle game reward when we get home
Wednesday- 20 minute trick training, 15 minute walk in the morning and another in the evening
Thursday- 30 minute walk
Friday- 20 minute trick training, 20 minute walk in the afternoon, 10 minute trick training
Saturday- 1 hour hike off leash, 10 minutes fetch as a reward later that evening
Sunday- 10 minutes frisbee at the dog park, walk to and from the dog park 15 minutes each way, play hide and seek in the evening
I have added this free printable for you to use!