Skip to content

Excerpt From 'Your Dog: The Owner's Manual' by Marty Becker

Veterinarian discusses the need for exercise

You have enough money — or at least you're pretty sure you do. Do you have enough time for a dog? Some dogs, like some people, are high maintenance. They need lots of attention. Sometimes that attention is in caring for a complicated coat, but usually the big time suck is in the category most Americans say they don't have time for already — exercise.

See also: Interview with Marty Becker, veterinarian.

All dogs need exercise. Even little ones. Even old ones. Even ones who really don't seem to mind a sedentary lifestyle. They need exercise, just as you do, and for the same reasons. Exercise keeps their heart healthy, helps keep their joints strong, and helps keep their weight down. (Veterinarians say the majority of all dogs they see are overweight or obese. The statistics are even worse for some breeds that just seem to be born to blimp — Flabadors, er, I mean Labradors, Beagles and Pugs, to name just three.)

Exercise, or more specifically, the lack of it, is also one of the main reasons dogs misbehave. They need to burn energy. If you don't find something for them to do, they'll find something to do on their own, and chances are you won't like their choices in activities.

Now, while it's true that you can get a doggy treadmill (some look just like human treadmills; the ones for small dogs look just like hamster mills), or get someone else to exercise your pet, the fact is that getting out with your dog is good for you both. That's not just me talking: Studies have shown that people who walk their dogs benefit from the activity as much as their dogs do. ...

The least amount of time you can get away with is probably an hour a day, all told, for feeding, cleaning up after, and a little play and exercise. For larger dogs, or high-energy small ones, such as most of the Terriers, there simply isn't a high end on the amount of time you could spend with them.

There are always imaginative ways to get your dog exercised without exhausting yourself, of course. Fetch is always great for this, and swimming is another energy burner, especially when combined with fetch. Toys that require dogs to work for small food rewards also count, and are also really well suited to those times when you can't keep your dog busy.

Your Dog: The Owner's Manual by Dr. Marty Becker with Gina Spadafori, copyright © 2011 by Marty Becker, is published by Grand Central Life & Style, a division of Hachette Book Group. Used by permission of the publisher.