Working Out the Body and Mind
Have you ever wondered why Fido is so eager to go for that walk? Maybe you’ve seen the look of pure joy on a dog’s face after running the gamut of an obstacle course.
Just like with humans, exercise provides our dogs with both health and happiness.
Exercise can also help with behavioral issues such as excessive barking or chewing, and it can help combat anxiety in new or different situations.
Exploration helps provide mental stimulation and can be incorporated into your dog’s daily exercise routines. When thinking about ways to benefit your wet-nose companion, it’s best to focus on the mind and body.
So, why worry about my pet’s mental health?
While exercising is obviously important for your dog’s physical needs, exploring grants your dog some essential mental stimulation. Often times, if you don’t provide mental stimulation, your bored dog will seek out some fun elsewhere. That means, if you only focus on the physical aspects and do not provide your dog with something to give their brain a workout, you might just end up with a very healthy troublemaker.
Mental stimulation can come in different forms including obedience training, agility training, and scent work.
Fun Fact: Did you know that your dog has up to 300 million scent receptors in their nose as opposed to our 6 million? The part of their brain that is specifically designed to analyze the smells is proportionally 40 times greater than ours. Dogs essentially see the world through their nose!
What are some of the benefits of exercise and exploration?
Help beat obesity.
Like with people, obesity is one of the main health issues associated with lack of exercise in dogs. With our busy schedules, it is often easy to forget our dog needs to move more than just going up and down the stairs or walking the length of our yard. Dogs need to get their heart rate going and truly work their muscles.
It is not just because Fluffy is carrying around a few extra pounds; we love our pets no matter what they look like, after all! The thing is, those pounds are not just a few extra curves. Obesity can lead to health problems such as diabetes, osteoarthritis, heart and lung diseases, or even cancer. So, it is essential to get those paws moving!
Help reduce anxiety.
Dogs that suffer from anxiety can benefit greatly from getting off the couch and going for a hike. If they don’t get enough stimulation, physically AND mentally, they are more likely to resort to destructive behaviors. Barking, chewing, and digging are things no one wants to come home to. Dogs that receive enough stimulation when you are home are less likely to freak out when you do have to leave.
Strengthen the bond with their humans.
Going for a walk, playing fetch, or going for a hike along a nature trail not only helps our pet’s physical and mental condition, it actually helps strengthen our bond with them. They learn to trust you more just by spending time with you. They view you as their partner in crime, their protector, and their friend. Think of their leash as the connection between them and you.
Help with obedience.
If you have a pooch that has some behavioral issues, try taking them for a walk – and not just a walk to the mailbox and back. Take them for a good, long stroll or even a jog around the neighborhood a couple of times. This helps create that bond and trust we talked about. And you know what they say, a tired dog is a good dog.
Slow the aging process.
Now, exercise is not exactly the fountain of youth, but getting our pets moving has been shown to slow the aging process. It is important, however, to make sure that you speak with your vet regarding specific issues that your pet may be dealing with. We don’t want to overwork our senior dogs. If you notice that twice around the neighborhood is one time too many or a full day at the park results in stiffness the next day, take it down a notch. Pay close attention to what your pet is telling you, and go at the pace they are most comfortable. It is also important to take it easy at the beginning with younger pups. Talk to your vet about how much a puppy can handle in terms of exercise and play.
Maintain healthy joints.
One of the things we worry about with our pets as they age is joint health. This is an especially important factor to consider with breeds prone to hip dysplasia and older dogs. In these instances, it’s best to take your pet’s condition into account and discuss a course of action with your vet. If, however, you’re dealing with a perfectly healthy pup, exercise can be a great way to help maintain healthy joints throughout their lives. It keeps the joints in motion and helps to ward off age-related diseases such as arthritis and a decrease in their range of motion.
Socialization is essential for our loving pack animals. Exercising and exploring with your pooch opens up a whole new world to them. As we mentioned, dogs practically see through their noses. Even if you don’t encounter any other pets along the way, activities like taking your dog on a hike through the woods can provide a plethora of information to them.
So, how do I incorporate exploration into these daily routines?
If you find yourself short on time due to work or other boring human activities, there are things that you can do to help your pet use their brain while you’re gone.
For starters, Give them a job.
People have bred dogs since domestication in order to accomplish certain tasks. Although the majority of us now have dogs just as pets, they still need a job to do to keep them happy. If they get bored, they are more likely to develop behavioral issues that can make everyone unhappy or even become dangerous. Their physical health is also on the line. Pets that are excessive chewers may find themselves in a predicament with a fractured tooth or even a foreign body that needs to be surgically removed. If they have a specific task to focus on, they will be less likely to become destructive out of boredom.
One suggestion may be to hide food or treats around the house. This way, while you’re gone for extended periods of time, they can focus on finding the hidden treasures instead of watching the clock until you return. They won’t get bored, and they will feel like they are winning the lottery each time they come across a new treat. They will also be using that awesome nose of theirs which stimulates the brain and gives them that ever important mental workout.
You could also incorporate a similar method when obedience training. Hiding treats and having them sit when they find it is not only great stimulation for the brain, but it also gives them a way to communicate with you without jumping, whining, or barking. Bonus: Activities like this enhance your bond since you will be working together as partners during these exercises.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you’re finding that you are unable to add exploration and exercise into your dog’s daily routine, it’s time to ask for a helping hand. Find your dog a walker or sitter that prioritizes exercise and adventure. Here are Ruff Life ATX, we believe in providing a healthy routine to build consistency for your dog and a trusting, lasting relationship. We love exploring the Austin area, and we are constantly thinking of fun, new ways to engage our doggy friends. If you’re ready to build an active routine for your dog, book a free consultation with us. We’d love to meet your pooch!
Whatever activity you decide to do with your pet, make sure that you remember that mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise. Your pet is sure to thank you for it!