Sky runningTaking your dog for walks is one of the best parts of dog ownership and is certainly the part that all our Holidays 4 Dogs carers enjoy the most. All of our approved carers enjoy an active lifestyle and getting out and about into the countryside with their four legged guests.

Exercising your dog isn’t just about keeping your dog (and you!) fit and healthy but about building on that special bond and partnership that dog owning can bring. Sometimes, however, it’s good to think about just how much exercise and what type your dog requires. This will greatly depend on the type and breed of dog you own; Border Collies will require much more exercise than a St Bernard and both will require slightly different ways of getting exercise. Border Collies, an agile and highly active breed, will love lots of sprinting and running (usually in circles!); this is a breed always ready for more even after the walk is over. The St Bernard, on the other hand, will generally enjoy more sedate walks and trots. Some other large breeds such as Greyhounds while bred for short bursts of speed are often happy with gentle strolls as long as they can also have a few minutes letting off some high speed steam!

If you have a very young puppy who is just a few weeks old, particularly if you own a large or giant breed, it is essential you are careful not to over exercise. Providing too much strenuous activity in the form of long walks, especially if this involves walking on hard or uneven terrain, can damage the development of your dog and impact on his health in later life.

Very young pups should only have play and exercise in the garden to begin with so always be guided by the pups own energy levels. Of course puppies need socialising, but in the early days try not to incorporate long jaunts of walking or running which can impact on growing bones and muscle. For the same reason, it is always best to avoid games which involve a lot of twisting or jumping as again, this can cause minor sprains and injuries which put further strain on the developing young dog.

Elderly dogs will begin to slow down in their latter years and energy levels can rapidly decline. As with puppies, you may find pottering around the garden is quite enough for the aging dog. While dogs need exercise daily, there comes a point when it is unfair to drag an old dog on the routine walk he may have managed in his younger days. Of course old dogs need to keep active to a degree, but be guided by your dog and if he is very slow and walking stiffly; it is possible he is in some discomfort and quite probably not enjoying his outing at all. In the same way you wouldn’t drag granddad for a hike across the moors, please bear a thought for the old dog suffering from similar age related aches and crakes!

As with any form of exercise you need to build it up gradually and carefully. Short walks on the lead can be combined with a quick spurt of off-lead running or ball games. Always ‘warm up’ first by walking the dog gently at the beginning of the walk moving on to a brisker pace or a trot before letting your dog off the lead for a good gallop. When you come to the end of your walk; ‘warm down’ by putting the dog back on the lead and walking him at a slower pace for about ten or fifteen minutes.

While allowing your dog to constantly move from side to side or to get under your feet when walking on the lead isn’t generally good practice, it is good however to train your dog to walk on one side or the other especially if your dog pulls or has a tendency to ‘crab’ to the side when walking next you. Alternating sides, using a particular command perhaps, encourages the dog to use all his muscles on both sides of his body.

There are other forms of exercise besides walking and swimming is an excellent way to build stamina without putting undue pressure on the body. You can take your dog to a safe natural swimming spot, or alternatively, there are many good canine hydrotherapy spas across the U.K. and while especially useful for dogs recovering from injury, they are also a great way for the average pet dog to use up excess energy in a safe environment with experts on hand to assist.

Dog sports such as obedience or agility are other good ways to exercise your dog with the added benefit of building on his training and obedience under the supervision of experienced handlers. Young dogs will not be able to use certain pieces of agility equipment until they are several months old and again this is due to the fact that inappropriate or vigorous exercise can compromise the developing frame, so always be guided by the trainer.

It is always a good idea to vary exercise as much as possible. Taking the same route daily is not only boring for you but monotonous for the dog. In most cases, the more sights and sounds a dog can experience is good for him and in addition, being able to smell different scents in different environments is very stimulating and good for the overall well being of the dog. Mixing with other friendly dogs and engaging in play is also good exercise for the dogs mind and body.

Playing games while out and about walking with your dog is also an excellent way to exercise the whole dog and this has the added benefit of keeping your dogs mind active at the same time. Take a look at our other Holidays 4 Dogs articles on dog games and walking activities.

Once back home after exercise it is always a good idea to rub your dog down vigorously with a towel, especially if wet. Some claim that muscle massage after exercise, as with ‘warming down’, can prevent the build up of lactic acid which causes muscle soreness; it certainly can’t harm and will no doubt be much appreciated by the tired dog!.

It is a good idea not to feed your dog too soon after exercise but to wait at least an hour before giving your dog his normal meal; especially crucial if you own a large or giant breed or a breed susceptible to stomach torsion.

Getting out and about with your dog is one of the joys of companion pets; meeting new people, seeing the changing face of the land and the seasons and maintaining your own health and fitness at the same time. For times when you are unable to get out with your dog, the next Holidays 4 Dogs article will discuss ideas for exercise indoors.