Everyone needs exercise—including your canine friend. Veterinarians say that dogs of all ages and activity levels need regular exercise to stay happy, healthy and trim.

Regular workouts can also alleviate "boredom behaviors" such as chewing shoes or cushions or digging up your yard. Exercise also encourages happiness and relaxation.

The best part about stepping up your dog’s activity levels? It’s something you can do together.

1. Getting started:

Before beginning any new activity, take your pet to your veterinarian for a pre-exercise physical. Your pet’s exercise program should be tailored to their age, size and breed. Ask your veterinarian how much exercise, and what kind, is appropriate for your dog. Healthy dogs can begin to incorporate exercise into their routines with two short exercise sessions a day. Possibilities include a 15-minute walk, a game of fetch in the backyard or a quick swim.

Even if your dog has a health problem or is pregnant, fitness is still important. Your veterinarian can recommend an appropriate exercise program that works around her condition.

2. The basics:

  • If you’re outdoors, pick areas with soft grass or dirt. Hard or slippery surfaces can damage footpads or lead to falls
  • Skip exercise sessions on extremely hot days, which can cause heatstroke
  • Offer plenty of fresh water
  • Stop immediately if you notice excessive panting or fatigue
  • Avoid exercising your dog within an hour of eating a large meal, especially if your dog is a larger, deep-chested breed, which are predisposed to bloat. (Bloat is a serious disease in which the stomach fills with air. In serious cases the stomach can twist, trapping the air and causing shock or even death.)

3. How much exercise is enough?

  • The average adult dog needs about 20 to 45 minutes of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, twice a day. However, different breeds require different exercise routines.
  • Different breeds require different exercise routines. Active dogs, including many of the sporting, herding and working breeds, may need one to two hours of vigorous exercise each day. Small toy breeds may get much of the exercise they need inside an apartment. Ask your veterinarian if you have any questions.
  • Remember: Your canine companion can't tell you when they’ve had enough. It’s your job to look for signs of weariness, including an altered gait or heavy panting.

4. Exercising an obese dog

  • An overweight dog strains their heart and joints with every movement, so talk to your veterinarian before you start. If your veterinarian gives you the go-ahead, exercise in moderation. Walking and swimming are the best choices.
  • Start slowly and stop when your pet gets tired—heavy panting and a lolling tongue will be your first clues.

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