PLAY AND EXERCISE IN DOGS
Why are play and exercise important?
Play with owners and with other dogs, not only provides the dog with some
of its exercise requirements, but also helps to meet social needs. Insufficient
exercise can contribute to problem behaviors including destructiveness (chewing
and digging), investigative behavior (raiding bins), unruliness, excitability,
attention-getting behaviours, and some forms of barking. It is especially important
to ensure that a dog's need for exercise has been met prior to leaving the dog
alone at home and prior to lengthy sessions of confinement.
What are good ways to play with and exercise my puppy?
Taking your dog for a walk is a good way to accomplish exercise and can be
enjoyable and healthy for you as well. From an early age you should accustom
your puppy to a collar and lead. A flat nylon or leather collar is fine. Keep
your puppy away from stray dogs and neighborhood parks until all vaccinations
are completed. Practice your walking skills in your own garden first. Put your
puppy on a lead, and using a food or toy reward as a prompt, encourage it to
follow you. Reward the good behavior with praise. Keep initial walks short to
Playing with your pet is an enjoyable activity for both of you. Not only does
the puppy get exercise, but positive interactions take place. Training sessions
are also an excellent way to gain owner leadership and control, while providing
interaction between you and your pet.
How much exercise and play is appropriate?
Selecting an appropriate amount and type of play and exercise, will depend
firstly on the type of dog. Puppies and even adult dogs from breeds that have
been bred for their stamina or to do "work" often have higher exercise requirements.
For purebred dogs, consider their traditional work when deciding the type and
amount of play to provide. For example, the retrieving breeds do best with lengthy
games of fetch or "Frisbee", while the sledding breeds might prefer pulling
carts, or running or jogging with an active owner.
The length and type of play and exercise for your dog will depend on its behavioral
requirements and health limitations. While some dogs may still be ready for
more after a 5 mile jog and a game of fetch, others may be tired and satisfied
after a short walk around the block.
How can I keep my dog occupied when I am away?
When you are out, or you are busy at home with other activities and responsibilities,
it would be ideal for your dog to be relaxed and sleeping, but this will not
always be the case. Exploring the environment, stealing food items, raiding
the bin, chewing or digging, are just a few of the ways that dogs will find
to keep themselves occupied. Therefore when you are certain that you have provided
your dog with sufficient play and interactive exercise, and you must leave your
dog alone, provide sufficient toys and distractions to keep your dog occupied
and confine your pet to a safe, dog-proofed area. Some dogs do best when housed
with another dog for play and companionship. Others prefer objects to chew,
areas to dig and self feeding toys to keep themselves occupied and "busy" while
you are unavailable.
What type of play should be avoided?
Try to avoid games that pit your strength against your puppy's. Tug-of-war
games seem to be an enjoyable diversion for many puppies and they do help to
direct chewing and biting toward an acceptable play object, rather than an owner's
hands or clothing. On the other hand, some puppies get very excited, overly
stimulated and become far too aggressive during tug-of-war games. A general
rule of thumb for tug-of-war (or any other game for that matter) is to avoid
it, unless you are the one to initiate the game, and stop it as soon as the
need arises. Teaching the dog to "drop" on command can help to ensure that you
remain in control of object play sessions such as fetch and tug-of-war.
Although games like chase are good exercise, they can often result in wild
exuberant play that gets out of control. Again, a good rule of thumb is to only
play these games, if you are the one to initiate the game, and you are capable
of stopping the game immediately should it get out of control. Many dogs can
be taught to play "hide and seek" without becoming too excited. Other dogs like
to "search" for their toys and bring them to you.
How can I teach my puppy to play fetch?
Most young puppies, even those that do not have an inherent instinct to retrieve,
can be taught how to play fetch from an early age. You will need to train your
puppy to do three things; go to get the toy, bring it back, and relinquish it
to you so that you can throw it again. First, make the toy enticing. Try a squeaky
toy or a ball. Toss the toy a short distance, 1-2 feet, and encourage your puppy
to go to it. When she gets there, praise her. If she picks it up in her mouth,
tell her "good dog". Then, move backwards a short way, clap your hands
and entice your puppy to come towards you. All the while you should be encouraging
your puppy with a happy tone of voice and lots of praise. When your puppy returns
to you, say "give" or "release" and show another toy or even a small food treat.
Most puppies will gladly give the toy to get the new toy or treat and at the
same time will quickly learn the "give" or "release" command. Then, by repeating
the entire sequence of events again, the game of fetch itself, should soon be
enough of a reward that food and toys will no longer be necessary to entice
the puppy to give the toy. At the end of each fetch play session, the puppy
should return the toy and you should then give a toy or chew treat for the puppy
to play with as a final reward for releasing the toy.
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