We all know that diet and exercise is important to keep us humans at our best, and the same is true for the dogs in our lives. Whether you have a pint-sized toy breed or a gentle giant, adequate time to run and play will be essential to keeping them healthy, happy, and even on their best behavior. Every dog will have different exercise needs, based on their age, weight, breed, and personality, so these six signs might be your dog’s way of telling you that she needs more exercise.
All dogs enjoy romping around once in awhile, and some rough play is natural, especially for rambunctious puppies. However, if you notice that your dog is frequently biting, nipping, and literally jumping for attention, this might be their way of showing you that they need more playtime. Some people punish a dog for behaving badly, but that will not solve the underlying issue.
One of the best ways to find out if their bad behavior is due to lack of training or just not enough mental and physical stimulation is to double the amount of time they spend exercising. Add a few more throws when you toss their favorite toy in a game of fetch, take longer walks, and if possible, encourage more outside time running free. However, if the dog shows a lack of stamina or stiffness, you may need to start gently and gradually increase how much time they spend moving around, and your vet will be a great resource on balancing their new workout routine. Very often, behavioral issues tied to a lack of exercise will go away once your dog has a chance to burn off that extra energy.
Barking and Whining
Has your once quiet pup turned into a barker, baying at every noise and often barking or whining at you during your favorite shows? Some dogs’ hyperactivity will come out through excessive barking and other noises, as they show us they need our attention, and they want to play. Similar signs include barking while spinning in circles, or pawing at the leash or door, as those are their ways of telling us they need to get outside or go for a walk. The best advice is to listen to your dog and try to find the time to spend with them when they ask.
Bored and hyper dogs left alone will often dig, claw, and engage in other destructive behaviors while we are gone. If you notice that your dog has been scratching, especially near the doorframes, that’s a very common sign that they are either being left alone too long, or need more exercise while you are there. Outside, they will often engage in obsessive behaviors such as digging, barking, and spinning in circles. Some people whose jobs require them being gone long hours find that hiring a dog walker or occasional pet sitter helps give their dog something to do during the day, and burns off the excess energy in a safe, harmless fashion. There’s a plus side for you too: a sleepy dog doesn’t eat the sofa.
Restlessness and Anxiety
Other dogs may not be as destructive, but they will still show their anxiety in other, more subtle ways. Some dogs will pace around the home, act standoffish, or avoid people. They may not be able to sleep well, so you hear their claws tapping against the ground all night long. This creates stress not only for their body, but also for their mind and yours. If you notice your dog is having trouble sleeping, or otherwise acting nervous or shy, the extra bonding time of playing together until you both are tired and going for walks will help them to sleep peacefully and ease stress for both of you.
Tugging and Dragging at the Leash
Some dogs become almost uncontrollable on walks, jumping, running, and leaping in any direction but forwards. This can be difficult for many pet owners to handle, as an excited dog can easily drag us along in their wake, leading to an unhappy experience on both sides. Harness training on walks is a good solution to this problem. It gives you an easier way to control even a large, strong, or hyper dog, and prevents the choking and neck pulling that can result when you try to hold them back with just a collar. Some dogs also respond well to a faster pace. Increasing your walking speed or training them to run beside a bike gives them the exercise they really need.
If this issue is happening all the time, even with frequent leash training refreshers, you may want to consider giving more exercise outside of the daily walk or two. It could be that they are just too worked up from being inside or lazy all day long, and would benefit from more playtime and running around while at home. Like the barking or rough play behaviors, our dogs often know what we want them to do, but find it difficult to remember when they are not able to exercise.
Obesity and Weight Gain
Obesity is a major problem for our canine companions, and very often, the cause is similar for them and for us. A lack of exercise can lead to weight gain, and often makes it difficult to help them lose the pounds, as it creates extra stress and soreness on the joints. If you know that your dog needs more exercise, or they are starting to gain weight, you will want to speak with your vet on ways to gently reduce their weight gain without harming their knees, hips, and joints.
For most dogs, a fun walk around the neighborhood, with a dog harness or not, is enough exercise on top of regular playtime and outdoor visits for running about and the bathroom. If your dog continues to act out or you think they need more than that, there are many fun human-dog activities you can work on together, such as running next to a bike, or even winter sports like skijoring.
Before starting on a more vigorous routine, you may want to check with your vet to make sure they are up to the challenge, and to get tips on how to exercise them right without causing any new health concerns. If your dog shows frequently stiffness, is older, or struggles to walk, they still need exercise but your vet could have some tips on safe ways to get them moving around again.