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How to Get a Lazy Dog to Exercise

Updated on October 24, 2012
Lazy Dog
Lazy Dog | Source

Dog Health

Since you’re here, I’m assuming you have an interest in dog health, as I do. Some dog owners assume that if their pooch gets adequate food, water, and shelter, along with veterinary care and maintenance like grooming and parasite control, good canine health is being taken care of. There’s something important that’s missing from this equation, though: dog exercise. A decent amount of exercise is imperative for physical health, but it’s also important for mental and emotional health. Just like humans, dogs get bored. In many cases, a bored pet is an unhappy pet and can become destructive. It might even become aggressive or depressed. If you have more than one dog in your household, the shaggy siblings might take care of this on their own, but there’s no guarantee that they will. Our three dogs all live under the same roof, but we sometimes have to prod them a little to get them to exert themselves. In this article, I’ve included some basic information about exercise for dogs, along with a few tips dealing with how to get a lazy dog to exercise.

Lazy Dogs
Lazy Dogs | Source
Our three boys are somewhat averse to exercise.
Our three boys are somewhat averse to exercise. | Source

Exercise For Dogs

Exercise for dogs is just as important as it is for humans. Genetically speaking, canines are meant to work in order to survive. Think about your pet’s distant ancestors that lived in the wild. They had to chase down and kill food or search for scraps and morsels. They often had to engage in fighting to defend their territory, too. Even after the dog became domesticated, it was a worker with an assigned job to perform. It served as a guard, as a fighter, as a herder, and/or as a hunter.

Most of today’s pet pooches have a much easier life than their wild ancestors had. We humans make sure our pets get food, water, and other essentials handed to them. That’s not to say, of course, that some dogs aren’t required to work. Dogs are still used for herding livestock, for finding game, for retrieving downed birds, for guarding, and in police work. The average pet canine, however, has a life of leisure. Should it, though, have an existence that’s totally lacking in dog exercise? No!

Exercise for dogs can deliver several benefits related to dog health. For one thing, exercise improves circulation and makes the heart stronger. It also helps the lungs work better. It increases muscle and makes the muscles stronger, along with making the dog more flexible and agile. It helps make bones stronger, too. Pet dogs often have a problem with obesity, and exercise can help prevent that. Best of all, adequate and regular exercise can help your beloved pet live a longer, healthier life.

As I mentioned in the first paragraph, dog exercise is also important for mental and emotional canine health. Dogs need to use their brains as well as their bodies to stay happy and well balanced. You might want to include some puzzle toys in your pet’s playtime. Some of these dog toys have a treat inside, and the dog has to figure out how to retrieve the treat. We’ve used several such toys with our boys, and they really enjoy them. Sometimes they can spend an hour or more playing with this type of dog toys.

Dog Habits can be amusing.
Dog Habits can be amusing. | Source

Dog Habits

Dog habits can be hard to break – whether they’re good or bad. Think about a bad habit that you have and have tried to break. It’s not easy, is it? And really, canines are often more addicted to routines than humans are. They feel safer and more comfortable in a set routine, and they’re definitely creatures of habit. Whether or not you realize it, you’ve largely contributed to your dog’s routine. If you’ve had your pet since it was a puppy, it all started then.

What dog habits have you introduced and enforced? Some were undoubtedly instilled accidentally. In other words, you might not have realized that you were helping to establish a pattern and routine in your canine’s mind. I’ll give you an example. Let’s say your pet is terrified of loud thunder claps. When you see that it’s frightened, you might have tried to comfort it by hugging or stroking it. Do you know how your dog interprets your actions? In its doggie mind, it thinks, “Hey, I guess I’m supposed to act like this because I get rewarded with affection when I do.”

If your dog lies on the couch next to you while you’re relaxing, you probably stroke it and talk to it. Your pooch soaks up this attention and affection like a sponge soaks up water. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you need to transfer some of those good doggie feelings to actual activities. When you’re walking your dog, for example, stop every once in a while to give your pet a pat on the head and a good word or two. Even if your pooch is averse to walking at first, it will learn to associate walking on a leash with praise and affection, and you’ll be establishing good dog habits.

Jonathan and Sparky
Jonathan and Sparky | Source

Lazy Dog

Do you have a lazy dog? I do. In fact, I have three lazy dogs. Our two male Great Danes, Hamlet and Grendel, are total couch potatoes. Our pound puppy, a Basset hound, is a part-time couch potato. Buford T. Sparkplug, or “Sparky,” for short, is still a puppy. He has short bouts of intense activity, after which he passes out on the nearest sofa or bed. Based on other Basset hounds I’ve owned, Sparky will most likely grow into a very lazy dog.

I’m not putting down lazy dogs. In fact, I like a laid-back pet that’s calm and cool, and I don’t really want to own a hyperactive pet. Some dog breeds require a lot more exercise than others do. Hunting breeds and herding breeds sometimes fit this description. If they don’t get a certain amount of exercise, feeling that they have a “job” to do, they’ll often take out their frustrations on your belongings, or they might express it in the form of other negative dog behavior. They might be hyperactive or possibly even aggressive. They might whine or bark excessively to get attention. They might tear up your belongings or dig holes in the yard when they get the chance.

Dog Behavior is largely influenced by training and handling.
Dog Behavior is largely influenced by training and handling. | Source

Dog Behavior

Dog behavior can be influenced by a lot of different factors. The specific breed can have a huge impact. For example, our Basset hound will sometimes get so interested in following a scent trail that he totally “tunes out” our commands. That over-zealous trailing instinct is a result of decades of careful breeding, as the original purpose of the hound was to trail and find game. Our Great Danes often grab our hand or arm, which is believed to be a holdover from when the giants were used for boar hunting. Thankfully, our big boys are very gentle when they grab.

Dog behavior is also influenced by specific bloodlines, in some cases. For example, some German shepherd lines are more prone to aggression than others. Responsible dog breeders try to “breed out” undesirable traits, but not all breeders are responsible, of course.

It’s also important to remember that each canine is an individual, and each is molded, in part, by its environment. The way a dog has been trained and/or has been treated goes a long way in shaping its personality and temperament. This includes its activity level. Have you always provided plenty of activity for your furry pal, or is it used to lying around and snoozing for most of the day? If so, such dog behavior needs to be changed gradually. You can’t expect a lazy dog to become a marathon runner overnight.

Walking on leash is usually a great option.
Walking on leash is usually a great option. | Source

How To Get A Lazy Dog To Exercise

So, we’ve come to the main point of this article – how to get a lazy dog to exercise. First of all, you need to make an honest assessment – do you really have a lazy dog, or is it you who’s lazy? Most dogs want to be with and interact with their human pack leader. If you spend hours on the couch, parked in front of the television, your dog probably does, too. If and when you become more active, especially engaging in outdoor activities, your pooch would probably love accompanying you.

Introduce dog exercise slowly, especially when you’re dealing with lazy dogs. Make exercise fun, too, by doing something the dog finds enjoyable. You know your canine best, so use its personality and its preferences to come up with an exercise routine. If the dog enjoys playing fetch, that might be a good place to start. Again, though, start slowly and gradually increase the activity level and intensity level as your dog’s endurance and general physical condition improves.

Below, I’ve offered several specific ideas on how to get a lazy dog to exercise. All of them probably won’t be great choices for every dog, but you can probably find at least a couple that will work well for you and your pet. Of course, a nice walk on a leash is always a good choice. Most dogs love exploring, and outdoor walks provide opportunities for that. It also helps them learn not to be fearful of strange people, strange animals, and strange situations.

If you’re a jogger or runner, you might want to take Rover with you. Be careful here, though. Young puppies don’t need the pounding they’ll get from hard surfaces like asphalt or concrete, so wait until the pup is older before you take it on a run. Watch for signs of overheating and breathing difficulties, too. Canines with short noses should be watched especially closely. Bloat is another major problem you want to avoid at all costs. Some dog breeds are more prone to bloat than others, and this includes the Great Dane. Bloat is a dangerous and often deadly condition that’s seen more in dogs that have deep chests. Never allow your dog to engage in vigorous activity an hour before or an hour after it eats a meal.

Kong Dog Toy
Kong Dog Toy | Source

Dog Toys

We have a lot of dog toys. These include squeaky toys, stuffed animals, puzzle toys, tug-o-war toys, chew bones, and lots of balls of different sizes. Some of the toys are designed for the dog to able to play or amuse itself alone, while others are designed to be used with humans. Our boys really like the dog toys that they can play with their doggie pals, and they especially enjoy their tug-o-war ropes. You’d be surprised at how well a Basset hound can hold its own against a Great Dane!

Some of the best dog toys, in my opinion, are the puzzle toys. They engage a dog in some physical activity, but they’re designed more for exercising the brain. In my opinion, based on my experience, one of the best dog toys on the market is the Kong. It’s basically a hollow ball that can be filled with toys, small dog treats, peanut butter, or cheese. The opening is small, and the dog has to figure out how to retrieve the good stuff. One reason I like the Kong toy so much is because they’re practically indestructible. Remember – I have two enormous Great Danes, and typical dog toys don’t last long with their powerful jaws and long teeth. They haven’t been able to tear up a Kong yet, though.

Another great dog toys is the kind that includes hidden pockets and pouches. The human can use the hidden areas for hiding things, and the dog has to figure out how to gain access. Sometimes it might have to figure out how to open the toy or pouch. The Intellibone is also very popular with dog owners. It’s a plush bone inside five plush rings with squeakers. The dog tries to get the rings off the bone. The I-Qube is similar, but it’s even more challenging. With it, the dog has to remove plush balls from a soft-sided cube. You might also want to check out Egg Babies, plush animals with soft squeaking eggs hidden inside.


Dog Backpack

One way to get more “mileage” into your dog exercise routine is through the use of a dog backpack. Before Native American tribes had horses, many used dogs as beasts of burden. How much a dog can safely carry on its back is a much debated topic. Some say a young, healthy dog can carry as much as 33% of its weight, while others say 25%. Some “experts” say 20% is a safe amount of weight, but many recommend that a dog carry 10% of its weight in a backpack for exercise purposes. Which one is right? I know more about this with horses than I do with dogs. A healthy horse can carry about 20% of its weight safely and comfortably, so it should be about the same for dogs. I also think it’s safer to err on the lighter weight, so you might want to load the backpack with around 10% of your pooch’s body weight – provided the dog is in good physical condition.

Where and how the dog backpack sits is important, too. A horse can most easily carry weight over its withers, or the top of the shoulder. That’s why you see jockeys hovering there in races. The same principle applies to dogs. The backpack should sit fairly snuggly over the withers, and the weight should be distributed evenly. When camping or hiking, you might want the weighted items to be functional, like water bottles, kibble, or clothing. If you’re just taking Fido for a walk, you can use bags of rice, peas, sugar, or sand. These work better than solid items because they’ll conform better to the dog’s natural shape.

Dog Laser Pen
Dog Laser Pen | Source

Laser Pen

Using a laser pen is a wonderful way to get a pooch – even a lazy dog – to engage in exercise. This even works for lazy owners. We discovered this accidentally one night. I don’t remember exactly how it started, but our dogs were and still are absolutely fascinated with the light from laser pens. They’ll frantically chase it, pounce on it, and paw at it – providing lots of exercise.

Why do laser pens create such excitement in dogs? It’s because of their predatory instincts – a reflex action. Of course, the problem is that the dog will never be able to catch the light because…well, because it’s a light and not a tangible object. The poor pooch will never experience the reward of capturing its prey, and that could lead to problems – especially to frustration. If you’re going to use a laser pen in your dog exercise plan, provide a few opportunities for rewarding the effort. Hide some doggie goodies in the room, and point the pen near the hiding places of the treats.

Laser Pen:

Adopt A Dog for your pooch
Adopt A Dog for your pooch | Source

Adopt A Dog

If your dog is an only furkid, you might want to adopt a dog. Dogs are highly social animals that naturally live in packs. They thrive on and need interaction with other canines, so a dog living without that sort of company is really missing out. A pet dog will come to view its human family as its pack, but if you work outside the home, you’re gone most of the day, and the pooch is left on its own. If you were to adopt a dog, however, the two canines would be great company for each other.

Owning two dogs really isn’t much more trouble than having just one. In fact, in some ways, it’s actually easier. They have built-in playmates around the clock, so they might be much less inclined to exhibit destructive behavior. They’ll be happier and less stressed.

If you can’t adopt a dog, consider a different type of pet to adopt. I’ve had dogs that became close friends with our cats. One of the Danes I’ve owned, a solid black female named “Ebony,” was best pals with a little white cat. Snowball and Ebony played together, ate together, and slept together – Snowball usually perched on Ebbie’s back.

If you do decide to adopt a dog or cat as a playmate for your first dog, introduce them to each other gradually. If both canines are still puppies, this will probably be easy. With older dogs, or with an adult dog and a cat, it might be a little tougher. Just be sure the two critters get along well before leaving them alone together.

Adopt A Kid - as a temporary canine playmate
Adopt A Kid - as a temporary canine playmate | Source

Adopt A Kid

I’m not suggesting that you actually adopt a kid here. You could, however, “borrow” one, if you don’t have kids of your own. In many cases, kids and canines are natural playmates. Take Sparky, for instance. He can be sound asleep on the couch, but when the grandchildren come over for a visit, he gets all excited and is ready to play. The same holds true for both Great Danes, too.

Because of a physical disability, I can’t run and play with my furkids, but the grandchildren can. The dogs love playing chase with the kids, both indoors and outdoors. My best friend has two Shorkies, and she enlists the help of neighborhood kids to play with her two little pooches, too. Sometimes my grandson even helps out with the Shorkies when he goes to my pal’s house to fish.

Before you adopt a kid to serve as “pooch playmate,” be sure to get the parents’ permission. Also, be absolutely certain your dog is kid-friendly. It’s also important for you to supervise any play or exercise. Even the most calm and gentle dog can nip or bite if it feels threatened, and some kids can get a little too rambunctious for a canine’s comfort. If you’re watching over the activity, you can hopefully diffuse a potential problem before it happens.

Treadmill For Dogs:

Treadmill For Dogs

Have you ever considered a treadmill for dogs? A dog treadmill is pretty much the same as one made for humans, but in most cases, it has sides that keep the canine on the track. All the ones I’ve ever seen, by the way are motorized. Dog treadmills come in different sizes, and many have different speeds and different resistance settings. Some are also programmable, so you can set the speed, resistance, and distance you want to use. This is a great choice for dog exercise because it can be used any time, and you don’t have to leave home. The weather isn’t a factor, either, so there’s never any interruption in your dog exercise plan. You can always be consistent. On the down side, most canines won’t just hop on a treadmill for dogs and master it the first time. It will require some training on your part, along with some patience and understanding. Even after the dog accepts exercising on the treadmill, you'll always need to supervise the activity. These devices aren’t cheap, either. If you’re really serious about getting your lazy dog in top notch condition, however, a dog treadmill is hard to beat.


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