NOVEMBER 21, 2012
The benefits of exercising with your dog
As the semester rolls on and tests pile up many students begin changing their daily routine to one that is more study friendly and, unfortunately, usually more deskbound. What most students do not realize is that while your dog lies next to you on the couch day after day, it is being robbed of physical activity that is vital to their health.
Multiple studies have shown that dogs that exercise have improved bone health and organ and lung function. It makes them look better, feel better, and they are less nervous when left alone.
“Exercise is good for maintaining general health, and it helps keep your heart, muscles, and joints strong. It also helps with maintaining weight and their coordination,” said Dr. Jacqueline Davidson, clinical track professor at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.
Studies also show that dogs lacking exercise usually have poor muscle tone and are more prone to injury, brain ailments, and bone disorders. They are also more susceptible to developing emotional problems and behavior quirks.
“Dogs that don’t exercise are usually overweight, have less dexterity, and their heart and joints aren’t as vigorous,” Davidson said.
“A lack of exercise can affect you and your pet in similar ways, like becoming chubby,” Davidson said. “Obesity is a big concern for most animals.”
Getting you and your dog off the couch does not mean having to do a tedious and dreary daily exercise, there are a lot of fun ways to keep your pet and you active.
“For dogs the choices are easy, they enjoy almost anything you enjoy doing,” Davidson said. This can include “walking, running, playing with a ball or Frisbee, agility training, and even such sports as canicross and bikejoring (i.e. running or biking with your dog attached by an elastic line).”
Sports such as bikejoring, while fun, can potentially be a safety issue, warns Davidson. “If you’re doing anything like attaching yourself to your dog, make sure the dog has decent obedience training and responds well to voice commands.”
The best way to exercise with your dog is to set a “date” between the two of you. While generally playing in any way with your pet is good, dogs benefit most from a prearranged occasion.
“Running around the yard is okay, but it’s better to have a structured activity where your pet is constantly moving,” Davidson said. “This structure can also help with your dog’s behavioral problems such as chewing and barking because you are giving them an outlet to expend surplus energy and spend time with you.”
It is also important to be patient with your pet. When starting a new activity or sport gradually build the time spent doing these activities.
“If the dog is sedentary and you expect it to run for several miles, or play vigorously for 30 minutes, injury may result if the dog is not physically conditioned for the sport or activity,” Davidson said.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.
Stories can be viewed at www.vetmed.tamu.edu/pettalk.