No doubt about it: dogs need and – benefit from – regular exercise. For a lot of pup parents, the preferred mode of exercise is a nice, leisurely walk or two, but others crave something a little more strenuous: a hike, perhaps, or a run through the park.
If you’re thinking of leashing your dog and hitting the trails and/or pounding the pavement, there are few things you should consider. The first of those is your dog’s age.
In general, veterinarians recommend waiting until your dog is at least six months old before subjecting them to high-impact exercise. If you start hiking or running with your pet too early, you risk damaging his or her developing joints and muscles. Large breeds need even more time to develop.
Speaking of breeds, not all dogs are designed to be ideal hiking and running partners. Short-nosed pups like pugs, English bulldogs, Boston terriers, shih-tzus, and Pekingese overheat easily and struggle to take in enough oxygen when running or hiking a difficult trail. Stick to strolls if you have a short nose. On the other hand, owners of dalmatians, Siberian huskies, Labradors, German shepherds, and golden retrievers might find that running and hiking are the best ways to calm their high-energy beasties.
A few more tips:
· Make sure your pet is comfortable and good on the leash before throwing another challenge at them.
· Start slowly. Take your pet for a run around your house or apartment to get him or her used to the rhythm of vigorous exercise. Try adding a half mile onto your route per week.
· Practice the “leave it” command early and often. This will help keep your pet on task when distractions arise.
· Pay attention to your pup’s cues. If he’s showing signs of pain or extreme lethargy after exercise, you might need to cut back. If he simply stops in the middle of the road or hiking trail, don’t force him to keep going.
· Mind the mercury. Because dogs overheat faster than we do, it’s often not safe to exercise them too hard in temps above 70 degrees.
· Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Your dog needs more water than you do. If you’re headed out for a long hike or run, make sure to bring water with you and share it liberally with your pet.
· Go off road. Try to pick a route that allows your pet to spend at least a part of the hike or run on a soft surface. This is good for their joints but also their paw pads, which are sensitive and should always be checked after strenuous exercise.
Bottom line? Always consult your veterinarian before changing your pet’s exercise routine. And please feel free to call us at (802) 985-2525 if you need more information. We’d love to help to put you and your pet on the right path.