Every dog needs regular, consistent, purposeful and supervised physical and mental stimulation in order to stay fit and healthy. This is not simply a matter of burning off energy, although the effect of exercise on fitness is important for dogs as it is for humans. But for all dogs, exercise is also about mental stimulation, socialisation and interacting with different environments. So it is important that exercise is varied and includes off-lead as well as on- lead sessions and play (and training). Actual amounts of exercise required by dogs do vary considerably, both between breeds and between individuals within a breed, as well as with age and state of health.
Play and exercise.
As you get to know your dog, experiment to find the games and activities that it most enjoys. The type or breed of dog (and its origins as, for example, a scent hound, a gaze hound, a retriever or a herder) is likely to have a bearing on its behaviour, and so on the choice of games to try:
Dogs enjoy joining in many forms of recreation and play from games with toys and balls), to simple open air exercise (swimming, running, jogging, hiking,) to skills based sports/work (Obedience, Agility, Flyball, Heelwork to Music, Tracking, Trialling, Hunting). The added bonus is that they are all equally pleasurable and beneficial to both the dog and its owner.
But be aware that some activities that may seem fun to you (e.g bicycling with your dog on a lead or in a front basket), could be unsafe for your dog. Any play that could have an element of risk should only be carried out under the right instruction and supervision, and with the appropriate knowledge and equipment. Your dog may also be physically unable to perform some types of play.. If in doubt about your dog’s engagement in a particular challenging activity, you may wish to consult a Veterinary Surgeon, or a specialist in the field of activity that interests you, to ascertain his suitability and training for it . In some sports, the dog may enjoy the use of training aids (e.g. treadmill) in conjunction with, rather than separate from, any specific activity, in order to improve, maintain and sustain his capability to take part in it safely.
Are there problems with exercising?
After exercise, it is always a good idea to check your dog all over (especially feet and limbs) in case there is any evidence of cuts, abrasions, tenderness or pain. If the dog is not himself after exercise, it may be necessary to consult your Veterinary Surgeon even if there is nothing in particular obvious to you. There could be a pulled muscle, a significant injury or an unidentified health issue.
Never exercise your dog immediately after it has eaten. There is some evidence to suggest that, especially in the larger/giant (deep chested) breeds, it may be a trigger/cause of Bloat (Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus" ("GDV") which can be deadly.
Problems associated with lack of opportunities for exercise.
There is strong evidence that hyperactivity (incessant tail chasing, pacing, digging, inability to settle or relax, especially in the absence of the owner), irritability and nervousness (possibly leading to biting and aggressive behaviour towards both humans and other dogs), destructiveness (chewing of both personal belongings and household furniture), excessive barking (boredom, and unused pent up energy), abnormal and unwanted behaviours (abnormal toileting issues, often when left alone, excessive licking, scratching or chewing of its own body, feet or limbs) can be a result of the failure to provide a dog with sufficient regular daily exercise. Such undesirable detrimental behaviour can also affect both the dog’s mental (separation anxiety) and physical health (obesity, diabetes) all of which spells disaster for both dog and owner.
Appropriate physical exercise will increase your dog's ability to focus and become a socially acceptable and adaptable member of both a human and canine family group.