Though it may seem like your four-legged friend loves nothing more than to nap on the couch, dogs need regularÂ exerciseÂ to stay healthy just like people do. From long evening walks to a daily game of fetch, starting a fitness routine with your pup â combined with feeding them a well-balanced, nutritious dog food â will keep them happy and healthy for years to come.
Benefits of Exercise
Similar to people, one of the main health risks associated with a lack of exercise in dogs is obesity, says Susan OâBell, DVM at the Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston. Dr. OâBell also notes that dogs that go without regular exercise may be prone to a variety of behavioral issues, including destructive behaviors like barking, digging or chewing. Aside from preventing these issues, providing your dog with regular exercise supports healthy aging by easing chronic symptoms and allows them to be social and explore their environment.
âMany dog owners report that their dogs seem to be better behaved when they receive adequate daily exercise,â Dr. OâBell says, âAdditionally, at least one study has shown that dogs who have hip dysplasia show less lameness if they have longer duration of exercise throughout the day.â
When to Start Exercising Your Dog
While itâs important for your dog to exercise throughout his life, youâll want to keep in mind their life stage and fitness level before starting an exercise routine. Puppies under the age of three months, for example, should have off-leash time on soft surfaces such as grass or carpeting; stairs should only be used sparingly. In fact, Dr. OâBell points out that retrospective studies have shown use of stairs by puppies at this age may be a risk factor for future development of hip dysplasia in certain breeds. She also recommends saving long runs with your pup until theyâre a bit older â between 10 and 12 months of age â to ensure their growth plates have closed.
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