• Linda Healy

Exercising your dog

Every dog has its own exercise requirements, which can differ considerably. Working breeds such as collies and many terriers enjoy lots of exercise, but others may be less demanding, such as the Cavalier Kind Charles Spaniel and Bulldogs. The breed of dog you have will also influence the type as well as duration of exercise. Other points to remember are:

1) Don't suddenly increase exercise - build it up gradually or your dog may feel uncomfortable later in the day. If you're planning on taking your dog on holiday with you, he'll probably get more exercise than usual, so try to prepare him by getting him a little fitter beforehand.

2) When you can't be home during the day hire a dog walker so he can romp around the park with some friends. Or, have your dog join a dog daycare. These also provide your dog with much needed socialization.

3) Beware of over-exercising younger dogs, especially larger breeds (anything from labrador size upwards) and particularly during the first 6-12 months while they are still rapidly growing. Damage can be caused to immature joints which may not be apparent immediately, but may cause problems later in life.

4) Exercise can go hand-in-hand with dieting if you have a portly pet, but does need to be very slowly and carefully increased; consult your vet for advice on how much to do with him.

5) Just as human athletes do, allow your dog to warm up gently before he launches himself into strenuous activities; put him on the leash if it's necessary to curb his enthusiasm, and begin by walking steadily and then gradually pick up the pace and striding out more briskly.

6) If you'd like to take your dog jogging with you - and he's of a breed which will be able to cope with it - try to run on soft grass where possible to avoid problems such as sore pads from running on pavement.

7) Pay attention to your dog and let him tell you when he's had enough; if he starts lagging behind or is panting excessively for example. Enthusiastic dogs who love to please may try and keep going even when they are tired, so be observant. If you notice him having difficulty walking, getting to his feet, showing marked breathlessness or lameness after exercise, ask your vet to check him over.

8) Remember to take poop bags on your outings, and water for your pet on longer outings.

9) Don't exercise your dog just before, or until 2 hours after a meal.

10) Never exercise your dog during the hottest part of the day in summer, go out early in the morning or wait until later in the evening when its cooler.

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