by Lynn Shapiro
, Writer | September 11, 2009
People and their dogs both need physical activity to fight obesity, and there are many exercises that owner and pet can do together that can improve their health and their relationship, according to a Kansas State University expert.
Dr. Susan Nelson, K-State veterinarian and assistant professor of clinical sciences, said dogs, like people, reap many benefits from exercise. She said there are physical and mental health advantages for the dog owner and the dog when they exercise together.
"Obesity is a big problem in pets, just as it is with people, and exercising helps keep the dog's weight down," Nelson said. "Dogs also need an outlet to relieve their energy or else they may develop destructive behavior. Your dog is going to be happier and more content if it receives adequate exercise.
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"Exercising with your pet also promotes the human-animal bond," she said. "People like dogs because of their unconditional love, and dogs are going to be very pleased to have their owners do something with them."
Nelson said exercise is important, but dogs differ in the amount and types of exercise they should be doing to maintain good health. A blanket recommendation for exercise time amounts can't be given as exercise needs vary vastly between individuals, and factors such as age, breed, weather and general health all influence the amounts of exercise your dog will need. Nelson said to consider these guidelines:
* In general, larger and working dogs have higher energy needs, and smaller/toy breeds need less exercise.
* Ideally, dogs should get out twice daily for exercise. Times may vary from 15-60 minutes, depending on your individual pet.
* Turning the dog loose in the backyard isn't enough -- aerobic exercise should be continuous with few breaks. Most dogs are content to lie in the sun and only get up for short periods of activity. If the dog has another dog it can run around with outside, that could be sufficient if they spend long periods of continuous play, but don't rely upon that in most circumstances.
Nelson said there are many generalities when it comes to exercising with dogs, but they are just generalities. For example, though many small dogs prefer lighter activities, Jack Russell Terriers tend to be very high-energy pets. Here are some generalities for activities to do with your dog depending on its needs and interests:
* Medium and large dogs typically make better long-distance running partners. If your dog can run longer than you are able, you may want to consider biking while having your dog run beside you on leash. Pay careful attention to safety if you choose this option. Smaller dogs are better suited for shorter distance running or walking.