If your New Year’s resolution is to exercise more, then consider including your dog in your routine. Just like humans, dogs need daily exercise to stay fit and healthy—no matter their age or breed.
Dr. Stacy Eckman, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, offered some insight on exercise programs for dogs.
“Unless their health prohibits it, all dogs need some form of daily exercise,” Eckman said. “However, the amount of exercise depends on the dog’s breed and age. For example, high-energy and working dogs require regular exercise to stimulate them mentally and keep them from getting bored. Other breeds may only require exercise to maintain or achieve a healthy weight and lifestyle.”
In other words, a puppy or younger dog will probably have more energy than an older dog, and a Chihuahua probably won’t be able to walk the same distance as a Border Collie.
Before beginning any sort of exercise routine, Eckman recommends having your dog’s veterinarian evaluate its health condition.
“Work with your veterinarian to develop a diet and exercise program that is tailored for your pet,” Eckman said.
For example, if your pet currently is overweight or lives a sedentary lifestyle, you shouldn’t take them on a five-mile run the first day. In this case, Eckman said to start slow and gradually work a few minutes of exercise into their routine each day.
“This is where tailoring the exercise to the pet and their individual needs is best,” Eckman said.
Exercising can also benefit dogs that are prone to arthritis, hip dysplasia, or other health conditions that can affect mobility. Although it may seem that rest is better for dogs that have joint stiffness or soreness, exercising can actually help relieve this discomfort.
“To alleviate pain, regular exercise, weight management, and veterinarian-prescribed medications are key in these pets,” Eckman said. “You may also rethink your exercise routine for these dogs. Instead of running or walking, try activities such as swimming to reduce impact and help keep their joints moving.”
“Senior” dogs love to exercise and play, too. In fact, Eckman said keeping senior pets active is a good way to prolong their overall health and wellness.
Sticking to a New Year’s resolution can be “ruff,” but finding time to exercise with your dog will promote a stronger bond and an overall healthier lifestyle. But before you begin an exercise routine for your dog, remember to have them evaluated by a veterinarian. Now get outside and get moving!