This is a topic near and dear to my heart at the moment due to a lovely year old Golden Retriever foster dog my husband and I took into our home a few weeks ago! Even though I train and work with dogs for a living, having lived primarily with senior dogs over the last few years, I had forgotten what it was like to have a young and energetic dog in the house. Its very similar to having a toddler human in the house….they have TONS of energy, and it needs to be drained for several important reasons!
One important reason to exercise your dog and drain them of excess energy is obvious and that would be for health. Just like us humans, our canine friends need quality exercise to stay fit and healthy. Proper exercise along with a good nutritional diet keeps a dog at a healthy weight, which is important for their heart and functionality of other organs.
Another really important reason to exercise a dog is to ward off behavioral issues. Young dogs in particular suffering from a lack of exercise usually find other outlets to drain their energy. Some of those outlets may include destructive chewing, rough playing and biting, digging and scratching as well as hyperactivity. I personally have discovered with this foster dog we have that the days when I take her to doggie daycare at during the week, on those evenings she is much calmer and less likely to rough play and/or chew destructively. However, on the weekends when she does not attend daycare where she can run and play with dogs most of the day, on those evenings she is more likely to make bad behavioral choices around the house. Consequently, I take her to doggie daycare as much as possible because it makes us both happy!
Lastly, I think exercise gives a dog a sense of mental fulfillment. If you think about many of the breeds we house in our homes today, they were bred for a specific purpose, whether hunting or guarding or retrieving or herding. Whatever the physical job was, the reality is that most of our domesticated dogs are not doing what they were bred to do anymore, thus leaving a huge hole in their physical and mental fulfillment, so we must find other exercise outlets to round out their lives. Some fun and easy forms of exercise owners can do with their dogs in include the following: long calm walks, swimming, fetch and retrieve toys, dog sports such as Agility and Rally Obedience (which includes a lot of loose leash walking), playing with other dog friends, scent work or Hide & Seek and hiking. Make sure to assess whether or not the type of exercise you are choosing is appropriate for your dog. For instance, in young dogs whose growth plates have not yet set, taking jumps and doing Agility might not be the best choice until they are a bit older and the risk of injury is reduced. However, calm walking is pretty much a good form of exercise for dogs of all breeds and all ages. Whatever you do decide to do with your dog regarding exercise remember that getting in even some minimal exercise with your dog everyday is one of the primary keys to your canine companion’s health and happiness.