How Much Physical and Mental Stimulation Does Your Dog Need Each Day?
by Nicole McCray
We are all pretty aware that dogs, like humans, need exercise and mental stimulation each day to help with longevity and happiness. For dogs, it can help promote good behavior while preventing any other behaviors, such as anxiety or aggression. The exercise also aids in keeping your dog from becoming obese and prevention of health issues.
We know that dogs need physical and mental stimulation – the question is, just how much do they need?
Many owners who work, primarily if you work long hours, can start to feel guilty if they feel they are not giving their four-legged companions enough attention and physical exercise. They also tend to express concern over dogs’ emotions and experiencing separation anxiety.
Here are some great ways to create a balance and ensure that your dog is being cared for properly.
Daily exercise is essential for dogs, so getting your dog outside every day is vital. The Bond Vet Animal Clinic states that it is most helpful if you can provide your dog with at least two solid walks per day, but remember that different sizes and breeds of dogs will need varying levels of that exercise. The energy levels of certain breeds may require more activity daily than some others and should be determined on an individual basis with the help of a veterinarian.
Walking your dog provides it with the exercise it needs. You must be conscious of how much walking is necessary. For example, you may want to start with a more gradual walk to start, before having your dog pick up the pace to a jog or a run.
Dogs will still need warm-ups, like humans, to get their muscles ready for more active exercise. You don’t want your furry friend to become overexerted or overheated. It might be a good idea to bring some water on hotter days when you take your walks to ensure your dog stays cool and hydrated.
The first walk should occur in the mornings (before work), and the duration should last approximately an hour, maybe a little bit less. The second exercise can be later in the day (after work) and only has to be about a half-hour in length. Overall your dog should at least get an hour of physical exercise every day.
HIGHER IMPACT ACTIVITY AND TRAINING
You can create more physical activity during these walks by bringing along a toy or ball for your dog to chase. Most dogs don’t necessarily have to run, though; walking is enough exercise to stimulate their joints. You can even avoid having your dog do a lot of jumping to catch things since this can cause more damage to their joints and muscles.
For a higher impact form of exercise, training your dog is a fantastic option. You can teach your dog how to behave accordingly when out in public and perform special tricks such as crawling or rolling over.
If they jog alongside you at a medium pace while you jog or ride a bike, this can be enough of a higher impact exercise as well. You might even consider enrolling your dog into agility training classes, where you can form a strong connection and have adequate, set-aside time with your dog for exercise.
The most important part of giving your dog this good exercise each day is to make sure that they are enjoying themselves. Any activity that you coordinate for your dog will go a long way to help keep them happy and occupied, as well as receiving a decent workout for their bodies.
One last thing to note is that your dog is done with physical exercise for the day to give your dog time to wind down. Activity will stimulate and have your dog excited, so make sure you allow some time for the dog to adjust before leaving it alone or putting it away in its crate.
INTERACTIVE TOYS AND GAMES
Mental stimulation is harder to put an actual timeframe on, but it is an essential part of caring for your dog’s wellbeing. Creating games for your dog to learn things, such as playing hide and seek with a favorite toy, can be an excellent way to stimulate your dog mentally.
There are plenty of stimulation toys for dogs that will also work on their mental health. You can find games where your dog has to actively work for a treat or puzzles where your dog can enjoy figuring them out and is rewarded with appreciative sounds and laughter.
STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES
Dogs have a compelling sense of smell, so you can work with this in combination with your daily walks and allow your dog time to sniff around areas to smell the foliage or other animals. Explore new locations each time you take your dog for a walk so that it doesn’t get used to the same places over and over and can stimulate its mind with new areas to check out.
Engaging with you is one of the most critical impacts on a dog’s mental health, so just take some time to play with your dog, even if it’s just to fetch a toy or a treat. You know your dog’s personality best, so make sure you create a plan to ensure that you are guiding your dog through interactive and fun activities to stimulate its physical and mental health.
Your dog may have specific health issues, which could prevent it from engaging in certain activities, so just be mindful of this and don’t push if your dog seems tired. Your dog’s age can also affect how reactive or how well it will sustain certain activities. If you ever have any questions or concerns about your dog’s behavior or responses to stimuli, you can always consult a veterinarian for more assistance.