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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

From The Mail Bag - Exercise

Question: It's pretty common knowledge that people can over-exercise - i.e. work out too much without getting proper rest in between workouts. Overdoing it can lead to injuries, fatigue, reduced gains, apathy, etc - exactly the opposite of what one is trying to achieve. Along those lines, is it possible to over-exercise dogs? 

For example, by taking the dog to a dog park too often, by jogging/riding a bike with the dog every day, playing fetch every day, etc? Or is there enough time at night and during the day for a dog to get all the sleep and rest he/she needs? I have a Jack Russell, so he's always willing to go - and a lot of activity makes for a calm dog. I just want to make sure not to overdo it. He'll never say no to running around.

Thank you so much for your question. This is a really good subject to talk about.  One that's so important, I think it might take me several posts to cover.

I'll start with what you wrote in your last sentence: "He'll never say no to running around." I'm really glad you notice this in your dog. Some people might not. One of the reasons that we humans love dogs so much is because they seem to be eager to please.  While this is probably an overly anthropomorphic concept, we do know that if we keep going, a lot of dogs will keep going as well - sometimes to their detriment.
1. Dogs can over exercise muscles just like humans. And they need breaks just like humans or they will suffer injuries
2. Dogs can easily get over heated or exhausted. They wear fur coats all of the time and they don't have sweat glands. So they can't dissipate heat like humans. On warm or hot days, a human might be able to easily jog 5 miles. But a dog attempting to do the same thing could suffer from heat stroke.
3. We know that dogs dissipate heat by panting. But did you know that dogs can't pant and gallop at the same time?  See video below or click here.

How do we keep our dogs safe?
1. Start with a thorough check up at the vet's office. Ask your vet what type of exercise is safe for your pet
2. Save strenuous exercise for early morning or late evening
3. Build up to strenuous exercise - start small and work your way up
4. Always check in with your dog. If the dog is panting excessively, if the tongue is hanging out, if the tongue is wide or curled, take a break.
5. Carry water on outings. Offer it to your dog regularly
6. If your dog stops, do not encourage him or her to keep going
8. If you are an avid jogger who "gets in the zone" or gets a runner's high. It might be safer to jog alone. If you are about to get into the zone but your dog wants to rest, will you stop?
7. Be extra mindful of young dogs, old dogs, dogs with structural issues, dogs with smooshed faces (brachycephalic), dogs with extra fur, dog with thin fur, dogs with no fur, white dogs (sun burn easier), black dogs (absorb heat easier)
8. Be extra mindful of taking a dog along while operating any type of wheeled vehicle or skates (personally I'm not a fan of this method of exercise). It's very easy to not be aware of fatigue or injury in your dog. Not only might your dog be exhausted but continue to try to keep up,  but also your dog might step on a sticker or glass or might get a rock in between her foot pads, but not be able to slow down to tell you about it. Dogs' foot pads can also get worn down or scraped. We might not notice the injury until the ride is over. (well conditioned wheel chairs or scooters that aren't moving too quicly should be fine - work with a professional for safety)

Talk with your vet about signs of exhaustion, heat stress, heat stroke, etc.. And look at reputable websites such as this one

See more about dogs' rest requirements here

More to come

See more on exercise here
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  1. Shoes that fit like a gloveOctober 2, 2013 at 5:29 PM

    One of the best posts ever, thank you for the great info. Too many great points to mention.

    1. Thanks @Shoes.
      Here is the second installment:
      Stay tuned for more on exercise

  2. Is it more dangerous in cooler weather? I've noticed my dog can run around much longer without getting tired when the weather is cooler than when it is very hot - it's quite amazing how much energy he has when it is cool. Is this all relative or can he be hurting himself when it is cool (for example, like an athlete who takes painkillers doesn't know when to rest).


    1. October, this is a great question. I think running around in cool weather is much safer than running around in hot weather. But I agree that it's all relative and it depends on a number of factors

      I'll write more about this in a blog post.

    2. @October. Here are some more details on your question