How much exercise do you give your dog? I ask this question as part of every behaviour assessment. Here are some of the most common answers:

  • We throw the ball for him in the back yard
  • We have a large back yard
  • He runs around all day with the other dog in the yard
  • The dog doesn’t like to go for walks / exercise.

Keep in mind, the question I have asked is – “How much exercise do you give your dog?” So how much do you actively go out of your way to give to your dog? Running around in the backyard or fetching a ball is a form of exercise. But the more exercise your dog gets outside of the home environment, the more mental stimulation the dog is receiving and the more likely the dog can fulfil their instincts and physical needs.

A big part of stimulation your dog receives on a walk is through scent. Your dog already knows the scents of the backyard. But each time you take your dog out for a walk, there are new smells to explore. Dogs have an extremely good sense of smell, so good that what they smell in the environment tells them important information about other dogs that have been there and the status of the other dogs. Scents tell dogs all sorts of information about the environment. So when you go for a walk outside, sniffing gives dogs information to process – they are thinking and this is a form of stimulation that helps to tire them out.

Keep in mind your dog’s breed and what they were bred for, then compare it to what your dog is actually getting. For example, Border Collies are designed to herd sheep in all conditions running back and forth all day long. How close does your border collie get to that? Unless we live on a farm and work sheep, this is impossible for most of us. But can we do more than throwing a ball in the back yard? How close can we get to what the breed was originally intended for?

We can make up for what we lack by giving the dog daily walks and mental stimulation. This is where teaching tricks is handy. As mentioned, mental stimulation can tire dogs out as much as physical stimulation. Just as people get tired when studying and learning, so do dogs. It’s good to provide your dog with both mental and physical exercise daily.

Don’t be fooled into thinking your smaller breed doesn’t need exercise – all dogs do. The amount and type will depend on the breed and what it was bred for, the dog’s age, and the personality of the dog. Usually the giant breeds actually need less exercise than the tiny breeds! These are important considerations to think about before getting any new dog. You need to make sure you are prepared for the work of keeping him physically and mentally fit and healthy. Happy training!

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