How and Why Exercise Improves Dog Behavior

Ever find your dog barking at shadows, digging up the backyard, or pacing restlessly? What if some quality exercise could be the solution to those frustrating behaviors?

I’ve seen plenty of dogs that lack exercise, and as a result, they are not as happy as their peers. Prospective dog owners should be wary of the exercise needs of their pet and consider whether that can fit their lifestyle. For example, if you spend most of your days at home, owning a Doberman Pinscher or Labrador Retriever is not an option. On the flip side, a French Bulldog or Pug cannot accompany you on hiking trips and jogging.

The Link Between Exercise and Dog Behavior

Every dog breed was bred for a specific purpose. These roles can range from herding, guarding, hunting, or just serving as a companion. Depending on the purpose, dogs were bred with specific body and athletic abilities in mind. For example, hunting dogs were bred to have stamina, endurance, and energy to go all day long with the hunters. Many modern hunting dogs need to burn their energy even though they are not going hunting anymore.

Without an outlet to burn that extra energy, dogs can be destructive. They turn the extra energy into anxiety, barking, digging, chewing, and similar behaviors that address their natural urge.

At the same time, prospective pet parents should remember that exercise is not just about physical activity. Dogs need challenges that work out their brain. Think of problem-solving opportunities, especially when you have an intelligent dog like a Border Collie.

Different Exercise Needs

When we talk about exercise, we are not talking only about a walk around the block. Exercises and physical activities should vary depending on breed differences, age, health, and intensity factor. Some dogs need more exercise, others need less. When you are bringing a new puppy into your home, look at its American Kennel Club group.

Understanding Different Dog Breeds

The American Kennel Club has several groups by which it categorizes dog breeds. Here is a quick breakdown of some of the most popular.

Working dog breeds are powerful and intelligent canines that were bred for tasks like pulling sleds, water rescue, guarding, and more. Think Doberman Pinscher, Rottweiler, Siberian Husky, Bernese Mountain Dog, Schnauzer, and more. They need ample exercise, at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day.

Next, we have the herding dog group, dogs that were bred to herd livestock. They are some of the most intelligent and energetic dogs that love to have a job to do. Here, we have breeds like Border Collie, Australian Shepherd, German Shepherd, and Australian Cattle Dog. All of these need several hours of exercise, combined with mental stimulation activities.

Sporting Dogs include Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Brittany, Portuguese Water Dog, and more that were bred to assist with hunting. They love retrieving, running, and swimming and need between 45 and 60 minutes of exercise per day to keep their body and mind in shape.

Hound Dogs can be either scent hounds like Beagle and Basset Hound, or sight hounds like Greyhound and Whippet. These dogs do not need as much physical exercise as they need mental work for their nose. Scent hounds need at least 30 minutes of scent work per day, while sight hounds were built for speed. They benefit from short bursts of intense exercise.

The non-sporting group is a mix of dog breeds. Exercise needs vary depending on the specific group. For example, Dalmatians need between 30 and 45 minutes of exercise per day. French Bulldogs, on the other side, are low-energy dogs that need nothing more than 15 to 30 minutes of regular walk per day.

We also have toy dogs, think Shih Tzu, Pug, Maltese, Bichon Frise, and similar dogs that are also on the lower side of the exercise spectrum. They are apartment dogs per se. Yet, even in the toy dog group, Chihuahuas need ample exercise.

How to Tell if Your Dog is Getting Enough Exercise

Paying attention to these signs can help prevent disasters like chewing on furniture. You do not want to see ripped-up shoes, right?

Hyperactivity and restlessness, signs like pacing, whining, and inability to settle, especially after some limited physical activities, are the first signs of pent-up energy.

Weight issues should not be ignored as well. Pay attention to the breed standard of your dog to see how much your puppy should weigh.

Behavioral changes like anxiety are signals that something is missing in your dog’s life.

If it gets to a destructive behavior like digging, chewing, and ripping up things at home, you have gone too far in ignoring your dog’s activity needs.

Creative Exercise Ideas

When pet parents think of exercise, they mostly think of walking their dog around the block. But that will not cut it with some breeds. Some other ideas include:

Swimming if you have access to water surfaces nearby. This low-impact and fantastic exercise will burn your dog’s energy in a matter of few minutes.

Puzzle toys and games are another idea that can provide mental stimulation and physical activity. Use them for highly intelligent breeds like the herding group.

Hiking is a great option for dogs that love to sniff, like scent hounds and terriers. The varied terrain will keep the experience interesting for your pet.

Dog sports like agility, fetch, flyball, and even parkour exercises can help your dog burn energy.

Final Words

If you aren’t giving your dog the physical and mental activity, they need to be happy, maybe it’s time to lace up your sneakers and discover just how much a simple change to their routine can transform your dog’s behavior and your bond.

Aleksandar Mishkov is a dog enthusiast that has been living with dogs his entire life. He now shares his life with a six-year-old Jack Russell Terrier named Milo. His website offers helpful tips on how to train and make sure they behave pro

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