Dogs, much like humans, get a variety of health benefits from regular exercise. Physical activity is an excellent way to enhance and lengthen your dog’s life.
Like non-working dogs, service dogs require a healthy weight and regular exercise to stay in their best working condition.
Obesity in Dogs
A dog being overweight is a major problem that puts them at risk for diabetes, cancer, and joint injury. The pressure of the extra weight also stresses their heart and lungs. While it can be easy to spoil your dog with extra treats or larger portions of food, this extra kindness causes them to have a shorter lifespan.
When you look down from above the back of your dog, you should see the broadness of the ribcage, and then it should taper off to the hips. If it goes straight back from shoulders to hips, your dog is likely overweight.
Exercising Your Dog Safely
The proper amount of exercise and the length of time for the exercise will vary based on your dog’s energy level and health. Typically, your dog should have 2-3 playtimes a day.
At Guardian Angels, our service dogs exercise on a confidence-building course that is part of what they need to learn during their training. It is a good way to work their minds and bodies.
The service dogs navigate a course that includes different environments such as stairs, moving objects, a sway bridge, wobbly tables/platforms, etc. This course is fun for the dogs, but it also helps them focus on their task, get some exercise, and is good for the handlers.
Before you implement a fitness plan for your dog, consult with your veterinarian. They can guide you in finding the best activities for your dog’s current health, age, and energy levels. They can also help you develop a conditioning program personalized to your dog’s needs.
When playing with your dog, you want to watch out for the weather. Your dog’s coat protects them from the sun, but you have to keep in mind they don’t sweat as people do, but rather they pant. If they can’t pant fast enough, they could suffer heatstroke or death.
Also, keep in mind that their feet can burn very easily. Check the ground surface with the back of your hand. It’s too hot for you to hold for 5 seconds, it’s too hot for your dog to be walking on.
It’s important to pay attention to your dog while exercising them and be responsible for stopping playing before they become overheated. Also, keep in mind that water is not a cure-all. You will need to pay close attention to the temperature outside and your pet’s energy levels.
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