Everyone knows that both diet and exercise are vital to maintaining good health. This not only applies to humans, but also to most animals. Vets advise walking your dog regularly so that they maintain a healthy weight and reduce their risk of many health conditions. With this advice in mind, is it possible to walk your dog too much? With the recent COVID-19 crisis, people have been told to stay indoors. However, residents of many countries have been told they are allowed out outdoors for the purpose of exercising, so long as they practice social distancing. This has led to an increase in dog walking.
The Impact of COVID-19 on Dogs’ Exercise Routines
According to Dogster, many dog owners are usually out at work during the day. Therefore, their dog is accustomed to a routine of staring out of the window, taking a nap, or strolling around the yard. While some dogs with working owners have a short walk daily, many are only walked once or twice a week. There are even some that are hardly walked at all. This has all changed now that people are spending more time at home due to the COVID-crisis. Keen to get out of the house, dog owners are dragging their dogs along for long walks or taking to the park for a game of fetch. According to Sydney Cooper, a Public Relations Manager for Fi, their data shows that dogs are now taking approximately one thousand more steps a day than they were before the pandemic.
Is A Sudden Increase In Exercise a Good Thing?
In theory, you may think that this increase in activity is a good thing. However, it is possible that you are doing more harm than good if you suddenly change your dog’s exercise routine. Really, it is best to seek the advice of a vet before you embark on any kind of new exercise routine with your dog. This is especially the case if your dog has an underlying health condition. Suddenly overstretching their physical abilities could potentially exacerbate their symptoms and cause them pain. While you may have the best intentions for your dog, you could cause them harm.
Take a Gradual Approach
If you plan to increase the amount of exercise your dog undertakes, then this is something that you should do gradually. This is particularly important if your dog is not used to getting a lot of outdoor exercises. Dr. Zoe Launcelott, a veterinary surgeon from the NorthStar Vets Veterinary Emergency Trauma & Specialty Center draws a comparison between dogs beginning a new routine, and humans suddenly taking up exercise. If you have never been running before, you would not suddenly decide to run a marathon. The same applies to dogs. Launcelott recommends starting off slowly, rather than launching your dog into a new routine that will over-exert them. She says that you should start by taking short walks, and then gradually make these longer by increasing them by 5 minutes per walk each week.
Likewise, if you go running and start taking your do along on runs with you, then you should do this gradually. You should only expect your dog to run for a few minutes at a time when they first join you on runs. You can then extend this gradually if your dog does well and seems to enjoy running. However, even before taking your dog out on runs, you should seriously consider whether they will make a good running partner. It is not ideal to take small dogs out on a run with you, simply because their stride length is so much shorter than that of a human. Even larger breeds may struggle to keep up with your pace.
Another issue raised by Dr. Mandi Blackwelder, the owner of Healing Arts Animal Center is that the outdoors is a very overwhelming place if your dog is accustomed to spending time indoors. Dogs can find a vast environment intimidating, and some may also have trouble with meeting people or other dogs. Blackwelder says that if you begin taking your dog outside, you should always keep them close to you on their leash. This will give them a sense of security, reduce the risk of them getting into a confrontation with another dog, and stop their leash getting tangled in another dog leash.
Exercise at Home
If you are spending more time at home with your dog during the lockdown, then you may wish to start exercising together at home. A backyard is an ideal place for you to exercise with your dog. Not only will this allow you to get outside and enjoy the fresh air during the lockdown, but it is also a chance to have some fun with your dog. There are lots of simple games that you can play together that will count as exercise, and you can play these even if you only have a small backyard. Letting your dog off for a run around the yard will allow them to build up their exercise levels at their own pace. You can also incorporate balls and other toys in the games you play with your dog. A simple game of fetch is something that all dogs enjoy, regardless of their breed or size. Spend short periods playing these games with your dog, and gradually extend the amount of time you play together.
The Final Verdict: Are You Exercising Your Dog Too Much?
Due to the COVID-19 situation, everyone is changing their routines in many ways. This is not only having an impact on humans, but also on dogs. While many dog owners who are now spending more time at home think they are benefiting their dog by increasing their exercise routine, it is possible that the opposite is true. Dogs who are not accustomed to an exercise routine or those who have underlying health conditions may find these changes particularly difficult.