With the warmer days of Spring/Summer happening here in Australia our thoughts are turning to more outdoor activities which will include our dogs.
Most dogs have spent long warm, cosy days inside through winter and probably only had a minimum amount of exercise. Some dogs may not have had that chance of being exercised and most will have probably put on some extra kilos. Which brings me to the reason for writing this article.
Dogs live in the moment, for a dog that means doing everything full on. They don’t rationalise as to how they will feel tomorrow after heavy exercise or playing games. The after effects of stiffness and lack of flexibility and stress to their muscles due to over exertion could/can occur. Our dogs go all out to please us when it comes to walking or playtime, so it is most important for us to know when enough is enough.
- Before considering taking your dog on any type of long walks, jogging and running here are a few simple things that will help our best friend to not only enjoy their outing but also help them to avoid injuring their muscles.
- If your dog has not had much exercise through the winter months start off with just short walks, building up to longer ones over a period of a few days. Your dog will greatly benefit from a simple warm up at home before heading out each day. By doing a gentle jog, a walk, then a slightly faster jog followed by a good active walk, then finish with a gentle walk (approximately 30 paces for each section mentioned). This will help warm up your dog’s muscles and give the dog a chance to oxygenate its blood in preparation to enjoy your walk together.
- If you have a pup under 12 months of age and especially the larger breeds of dogs, it is not advisable to over exercise them either by walking it long distances or having it run or jog with you. It can put unnecessary pressure on a young dog’s bones and joints which can help to cause such things as hip or elbow problems and arthritis later in life.
- Consider where you walk your dog, bitumen roads
become very hot and will easily burn your dogs feet pads which can be very
painful for them. Early morning or evening walks are much more comfortable for
both you and your dog. If bush-walking always be aware that snakes are about
and could strike at your dog or yourself.... snake bites can be fatal.
Always remember if you are going on a long walk to take water and a collapsible bowl for your dog. Don’t forget the poop bags and most of all enjoy your special time together.
- After arriving home from your walk and your dog has cooled down it will appreciate a simple cool down massage which will help to loosen muscles and help to prevent stiffness and loss of flexibility. By using both your hands and applying light pressure place your hands on the dog and slowly follow all the contours of its body. Starting from the head, front legs and especially down the back and hind legs. Always follow the direction in which the hair lies. This should not be done for more than 5 minutes.
- Ball play, Frisbees, tug toys and running are all a lot of fun for dogs, but can also have an impact on their joints, especially their front legs, back and neck areas. When jumping off the ground dogs use their front legs like shock absorbers when they land. The higher the dog jumps and twists the harder the landing which can cause damage to many areas of the body. As with tug toys, the harder the dog pulls or is pulled by the human playing with it, the more possible chances they can do damage to their neck and shoulder areas.
- Another great activity if your dog likes it, is
swimming. When a dog swims it has to cope with the resistance of the water
which makes the dog work a lot harder while swimming than when it is walking or
running on land. Swimming improves a dogs muscular tone/ strength and works the
respiratory and cardio-vascular systems. It has been said that 1 minutes
swimming is the equivalent to a dog running for 4 minutes. When a dogs muscles
are well toned it helps in protecting them against injuries that can be
sustained during normal types of exercise and play.
If you are unable to take your dog to a beach or river to swim another way to provide a fun water experience is to fill a childs wading pool so that your dog can cool off. This is also a good way for older pets that are not as active anymore to also be able to enjoy some time in the water.
- Be aware of when your dog has had enough exercise especially on a hot day. It is up to us to see the warning signs. They can’t tell us how tired or hot they feel and will continue on just to please their owner.
Why not treat your best pal to a professional canine massage. Massage will help to relieve aching muscles and joints which are often brought on by over exercising and too much play especially through the summer months. Your dog will love you for it.
Written by Heather Brook (copyright 2013)