Pretty well everyone agrees that taking your dog for a walk is just about the best exercise your dog can get, right? Maybe… or maybe not.
What is Exercise Anyway?
When we talk about exercise, we are typically talking about a physical activity that improves or maintains our dog’s fitness. The components of fitness are strength, proprioception, balance, flexibility, proprioception, and aerobic capacity. So let’s analyze whether walks make our dogs fitter.
During the past four years, hundreds of dedicated members of the Fit For LifeTM canine health and fitness program have assessed their dogs’ front limb, rear limb, and core muscle strength in the process of obtaining an individualized fitness program that targets their dogs’ weakest muscles. Data from almost 400 dogs shows that 62% of the dogs had weak core muscles, far more than any other part of the body.
Ok, your canine buddy is on the team’s injured/reserved list. It’s only temporary, but it’s driving you and your teammate nuts! Your dog’s brain is used to being active – running, playing, wrestling with his dog friends, and spending time training and competing with you in whatever games you play. That brain thrives on stimulation!
But now the veterinarian says you have to restrict their activity. Phrases like “crate rest,” “potty on leash only,” and “no running or jumping” make you think that the next few weeks or months are going to be unbearable for both you and your active dog. You know that you have to comply so that your dog can heal completely and get back to all the games they love, but that’s easier said than done.
Well, there’s great news! There are a lot of things that you can do with a dog on restricted activity, and they might actually end up expanding, rather than contracting, your dog’s repertoire of activities. Since dogs are highly intelligent beings, you can use this time to exercise their brains. You can also focus on exercises for the parts of their bodies that are not in rehab.
Today, thanks to social isolation and YouTube, I watched a video of Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world, performing a warm-up routine. A trainer took each of his legs and put the hip and knee joints into flexion for about 1 second. Then Usain Bolt did some dynamic stretching, including normal running and running with high knees for short distances, and some sudden accelerations from a stopped position. A little walking around, and he was ready to go! In the comments section were many submissions like “I thought we weren’t supposed to stretch!” and “But he’s only stretching for a few seconds!” and so on.
Did you know that your dog has something in common with vampire bats, pit vipers and black fire beetles? What could that possibly be?
It all started when some scientists from Sweden and Hungary went into a bar….
Well, that might not be exactly true. I’m not sure where they were when they got together and asked the question, “Why is a dog’s nose moist and cold, when most other mammals’ noses are warm and dry?” No doubt this is a question that has also kept you awake many a night…
At first they considered that the canine cold wet nose might help with cooling in hot weather. But they discarded that idea because the surface area of the nose is just too small to make much of a difference.
Have you ever parked outside a restaurant or concert, had an exciting few hours, and then walked outside to realize you have no idea where you left your car? Why can we easily recall our childhood street address but forget something we knew just a short time earlier?
Just like us, dogs have short-term and long-term memory. Short-term memory helps us remember where we parked, or where to go next on an agility course. It helps your dog remember where he put the bully stick he was enjoying before he had to leap up and bark at the door when the doorbell rang.
When we train our dogs, we want what they learn to persist much longer than a few hours. To accomplish this, those lessons need to be placed in long-term memory. Numerous studies have shown that reward-based training is the most effective way for dogs to learn. Dogs trained with positive reinforcement and without aversives are less stressed, which permits optimal learning. (Have you ever tried to memorize some facts with your boss or teacher staring at you as opposed to in the comfortable solace of your bedroom?) However, training methods aside, a recent study examined what kinds of post-training activities will help your dog send those newly learned lessons into long term storage. To find out more, check this out.
CHRIS ZINK DVM PhD DACVP DACVSMR CCRT CVSMT CVA is one of the world’s top canine sports medicine and rehabilitation veterinarians.