How does the ideal activity level for a dog change based on their age and breed?

Puppies are naturally super active and need lots of engagement, including playful interactions with their ears, mouths, and feet. Training treats such as Cheerios can be helpful for positive reinforcement. Puppies also need lots of rest because they're still babies. Younger adult dogs can typically maintain activity all day and rest at night like humans. Older dogs need activity to keep their joints mobile and their weight down. Controlled walks and swimming are particularly beneficial for older dogs because these activities maintain muscle tone without putting excessive weight on the joints.

Dr. Brittany Bueter
Hebron Animal Hospital

What health problems can arise in dogs that do not get enough activity?

Lack of activity can lead to arthritis as the joints may start to stiffen due to decreased lubrication. Obesity is another risk, which can put more pressure on the joints. Mental health also suffers when dogs are not kept busy, leading to decreased interest in activity. While dogs don't typically experience cholesterol issues like humans, their heart health can still be adversely affected by lack of exercise because the heart is a muscle that needs to be worked to stay healthy.

How should I deal with destructive behaviors in my dog?

Destructive behaviors can often result from separation anxiety or lack of stimulation. Providing dogs with tasks or jobs can help keep them engaged and prevent them from focusing their energy on damaging property. Puppy play dates, puzzle toys, and games of fetch can help provide this stimulation. Positive reinforcement is important, especially in teaching dogs what they are allowed to chew on. Mostly, destructive behaviors can be mitigated by giving dogs the attention they need and providing outlets for their energy.

What are some fun activities I can do with my dog?

The best activities will depend on your personal interests. Hiking, camping, running, and walks can all be enjoyable. At home, you might play ball or frisbee, or organize puppy play dates. You can also take your dog to dog-friendly businesses for socialization. Be cautious at dog parks, however, as not all dogs behave well around others. Ensure your pet is up-to-date on preventions, deworming, and Bordetella (kennel cough) vaccinations to minimize disease transmission risks.

What if my dog is lethargic and won't exercise?

If your dog used to exercise but has become lethargic, it's important to have them examined by a vet. Conditions such as heart disease, hip dysplasia, and certain cancers can cause dogs to become more sedentary. If the vet determines it's a behavioral issue, you can try using treat motivation or introducing new activities like swimming. However, any sudden changes in activity level should be evaluated by a vet to rule out serious health issues.

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