Your dog’s natural playfulness and exuberant energy is not just a charming aspect of his personality, it is him trying to send you a message that he NEEDS exercise. This is a crucial aspect of a pup’s physical wellness and mental stimulation. Dogs that exercise rigorously and frequently have fewer behavioral problems than dogs that are not given sufficient physical activities. Such sedentary pups experience agitation, aggression, irritability, anxiety, incessant barking, chewing, and whining as a result. Regularly active dogs are less likely to develop diabetes, weight gain, digestive disorders, lethargy, and circulatory ailments.  Exercising your dog with a strenuous outing of 30-60 minutes per day will result in a well-rounded happier pup and fewer trips to the veterinarian for you.

Playing with your dog is not only fun and exciting, but it also is one of the key practices that increase trust and bonding between you and your pet. It is a helpful reminder to your dog that you are in control of the situation, so that they can clearly see you are the pack leader, and that you call the shots in every game. The more you play with your dog the more he will understand his relationship to you, and your focused time and attention will help him feel secure and loved.

Helpful Playing Tips

Playing seems like an open-ended subject in which anything goes, whenever you romp around with your dog. However, it will be important to ensure that that your playtime is a positive experience that matches the other instructions your dog might be receiving in training, house breaking, and correct decorum with adults. Keep the following guidelines in mind when playing with your pet, to avoid encouraging bad behaviors.

Remain in control: You decide the rules of the game, and the duration of the game.  Even in this small practice, your actions will reinforce who is the dominant decision maker between you two. If you decided the game is over, it needs to be over. This is especially powerful if the dog is rambunctious and wants to keep playing, since this communicates that you are the pack leader, not he.

Add commands:
Train your canine’s mind as you play, so that while he is getting physical activity, he is also staying sharp and responsive. Incorporating “lie down” or “shake” or “speak” into a game can be a fun way to practice skills your dog may be learning.

Don’t teach bad habits:  Playing a good game of tug-o’-war might seem fun with a teething puppy who wants to gnaw and chew all day, but it usually trains your dog to bite, pull and refuse to let go. Similarly, wrestling can sometimes lead to nipping and biting; during playtime it is difficult for a dog to distinguish between playful nips and bites that hurt. Even while playing, be careful not to let him chew on your arm, shoes, clothes etc., as that is essentially training your dog that such behavior is acceptable.

Creative Exercise Tips

Beyond the basic exercises like going on daily walks, jogs, hikes, or biking with your furry friend, change up the schedule and invest in some creative ways to burn calories together.

Go swimming: While it is not for everyone, many dog-owners who live by a body of water such as a lake, river, or the ocean will opt to splash around with their pet. By swimming a few laps back and forth with your dog, he will get an invigorating cardio work out, and you can enjoy a refreshing swim.

Walk the human: Change your routine walking track around, by letting your dog walk you! Follow your dog, and if she catches a scent that she wants to follow, let her take the lead. You might explore new parks, neighborhoods and places you would never otherwise have known.

Dog park: Take your pooch to a puppy park. Here she can mingle with strangers, make new friends, and pick up unfamiliar scents. She may also play games with other dogs, as they entertain each other with chasing, wrestling and running for hours on end.

Fetch: Are you not feeling up to a full-on exercise? Let your pup do all the work, while you stand and enjoy the day at leisure. Playing fetch is the best way to do give your dog a chance to run and play without demanding anything rigorous from you. Using a toy, branch, bone, Frisbee or ball, throw it far away and watch your little bundle of energy race after the prize to bring it back to you. At the end of the event, she will be happily exhausted, and you will feel refreshed.

Obstacle course: Challenge your dog both mentally and physically on an adventure with obstruction and barriers. Set up some hurtles, like baskets to jump over, or cones to weave through. Even let them climb around a jungle gym for a mentally stimulating and fun change to your day.

Community training: Many city halls and public groups arrange for doggie dates and training sessions in public parks. Try signing your dog up for community events, such as tracking trails, or running course competitions where your dog can get to test his skills and solve problems in an exciting new way.

Teach your dog a new trick: Train your dog in a new skill, whether that is learning to shake, or rolling on command, or even recognizing a new scent (such as quail, rabbit, or pheasant scented dummy at a hunting store etc.). This will strengthen his mind and keep him mentally stimulated and focused.

Brave the bad weather: Even in the winter time, get outside for some quality cardio with your dog. Whether you go for a snowy jog, or a rainy walk, he will be happy for the chance to scamper around in the fresh wintery air. If you are worried about a “wet-dog” smell following you home, pick up a bottle of dog fragrance from a drug store or pet store. This will come in handy to keep by your back door so after any wet outing, you can give your pup a wipe down and spruce him up before he scampers back to the living room.