Thursday, August 26, 2010

For the Love of Dog - Walk Him!!

When we look at our furry canine companions, we don't always think about their genetics and instinctual drives. And as a result, even though we do plenty for them, we don't always fulfil them as we should. And when our dog's needs aren't all being met, they let us know!

We all know the obvious stuff, like socializing them, providing them with the right food and toys, and giving them a place in our pack. And we know they need exercise, but how much and what type?

Every breed is different, but in general, I think it's safe to say that a tired dog is a happy dog; it's a starting point, at least. But what type of exercise is best for your pooch? A lot of people ask me whether they should walk their dogs on leash or take them to the park to run free. The answer is.....drumroll....... BOTH! While it's important for your dog to stretch his legs and run off leash, walking on leash not only fulfills an old migration instinct to travel after food as a pack, it also reinforces your bond with your dog and hones his manners at the same time. The change of scenery is nice, too. I like to make my on leash walks a structured and disciplined (so to speak) affair, with all of my dogs walking nicely at my side and looking to me for direction. This sort of walking tires your dog out both physically and mentally, and if you get to explore your city and burn off a few calories along the way - great!

The really high-energy, task driven breeds (like Pointers, Collies, etc.) sometimes need more than even a regular walking schedule can provide. Activities and games such as fetching or practicing dog sports like agility or flyball can fulfil that need to work.

And to address those of you who are thinking about getting a dog and want to know which breed doesn't need to go for walks: get a cat!!! All dogs, regardless of size, share the same DNA and have the same instintcs. Some, like working breeds, require a good deal more exercise than others, but they ALL need to go for walks EVERY DAY. And sorry, walking around your house or your backyard doesn't count. Actually, I think it's pretty funny when people remark, "Oh, I don't know how you can have a dog in a condo!" Ummm...because I WALK him! I feel sorry for the poor pooches locked up in their owner's big, beautiful houses all day need to take Fido for a walk because he lives in a 3000 square foot house with a backyard? Think again!!!

If you're worried about your teeny-tiny Chihuahua or your teacup Poodle being able to walk, well....don't be. They have lots of stamina and their little legs work just fine if you give them a chance. Your lapdog or toy breed might not be up for a 2 hour hike in the forest, but trust me, he wants to get outside and be a dog. So please make your dog happy and walk him - just take weather into consideration and know your dog's limits.

Ideally, (depending on your dog's age and activity level) you should take your dog out for a couple of leash walks every day, plus a romp in the off leash park. And if your dog can't be trusted off leash, try jogging or rollerblading with him and give him the best of both worlds!

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