Excessive barking, obesity, diabetes, hyperactivity, arthritis, play aggression, destructive behavior, constipation.....
Can you guess what the common theme is in these problems?
Exercise! Exercise can work "miracles" in these behaviors and diseases that we see in our animals all the time.
If you have a 3-year-old labrador that is driving you crazy - chewing on your couch, barking at everyone that passes by, creating stress and all kinds of mayhem - that dog is exercise deficient!
Likewise, if you have an 11-year-old poodle that is becoming more stiff when she wakes up in the morning and the ounces are slowly starting to creep on, this is a dog that can benefit from more exercise.
Exercise can help make diabetes easier to regulate and can help get things moving in a constipated pet. I don't know that we can measure "happy" in our pets but I imagine exercise would help there, too, just as it does in people.
I know, I know, I've heard all the excuses and I've come up with a few of my own. I'm not saying that getting on a good excercise plan won't take a bit of work and commitment, but the rewards are definitely worth it. This is what pet owners have told me and how I typically respond:
1) She gets plenty of exercise: we have a large property and she has free-run of the yard.
Sorry, that's not good enough. That would be like putting your child in an empty room every day with a few of the same toys. She needs interaction and variety. Make it interesting. Play fetch in the yard today and go for a bike ride tomorrow. Visit the dog park in the morning and walk around the neighborhood in the afternoon. Take a jog through the park on Monday and go to obedience class on Tuesday. Be creative, mix it up.
2) She gets plenty of exercise (part 2): my last dog did great with just a daily walk, this dog must need some kind of sedative!
Nope, we cannot compare one dog to another. Even dogs of the same breed and age might have every different energy requirements. Remember, a good dog is a tired dog. True hyperactivity in dogs is excedingly rare. I have yet to see a diagnosed case.
3) Her arthritis (or other medical problem) makes it too hard for her to exercise.
Yes, this is definitely a legitimate concern, but don't give up! Let us help to relieve her discomfort by treating the underlying problem. If she needs pain medication to make the walk more comfortable, then let's do that first. Take baby steps until a full walk is manageable. The good news is that even a walk to the mailbox and back counts as exercise. Very short, frequent walks work best for dogs with health concerns.
4) My pet doesn't like to go for walks.
That's fine! Don't go for a walk then... go for a "wander." Simply allow her to sniff around the yard or park and trail behind at the other end of the leash. This is a great way for cats to get exercise, too.
If you have other concerns not listed here, give us a call, we would be happy to help you brainstorm a solution. It is common knowledge that exercise improves quality of life. We have nothing to lose in starting a better exercise routine for our pets, and as a bonus, we will likely reap the rewards, too.