Physical and Mental Stimulation

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Daily Exercise

Exercise is important to maintaining healthy muscles, bones and joints in dogs and for keeping major organs functioning smoothly. Dogs that get adequate exercise daily tend to look good, feel good and live longer. Exercise helps work off excess energy in dogs so that they can act more quietly at home. It also is a form of mental stimulation.

Walking your dog for it daily eliminations can also become a time for exercise. Different sizes and breeds of dogs need different levels of exercise, but generally you'll want to keep exercise routine and balanced. Be careful not to shift too quickly into an active mode — dogs need warm-up periods for active exertions just like people. Also pay attention to make sure your dog doesn't overheat itself. If you are doing an active sport or intensive activity, offer your dog water periodically to keep it hydrated and cool.

Most dogs need a minimum of two exercise walks a day. The first walk should take place early in the morning and last between 45 and 60 minutes. The second exercise walk can take place later in the day and should last about 30 to 45 minutes. During these walks, play with your dog. Dogs like chasing and retrieving balls and other toys or items. Toss a light tennis ball for your dog to catch, but try to avoid making your dog jump up to catch something. This tends to damage joints and bones later in life. Most dogs don't have to run; walking is fine. They just need to keep moving throughout the exercise period. Adolescent male dogs, however, often benefit from more exercise to help burn off the excess energy produced by their hormones.

Training is an excellent form of exercise. Use your walks to teach your dog how to behave properly or do special tricks, like rolling over. Dogs can also accompany you when you jog, bike, rollerblade or do other sports at a reasonable pace. Just be sure your dog is having fun. Don't forget to reward your dog verbally for good behavior and a good workout each time.

When you've finished your walk, allow your dog to spend some time roaming in the house before putting it in a crate or leaving. This gives the dog a little time to re-adjust to indoor living and rewards their good outdoor behavior. It will make it easier for the dog to transition to quiet time in the crate as well.

Mental Stimulation

Dogs benefit from new learning experiences and challenges. It takes repetition for a dog to learn something new, which means that training and practice are great forms of mental stimulation. Because of their powerful ability to smell, a dog's favorite stimulation is having opportunities to sniff around where there are lots of scents. Even if confined indoors, dogs will benefit from being able to watch the activity outdoors through a window. Make sure your dog is part of the daily flow of life in your home so that it doesn't become isolated. Leave a couple of toys in its crate to play with when it is alone. Dogs also love to search and find things. You can hide a toy or food item you want them to find in the yard and keep them busy for a long time. Remember, engaging with you and the world around them is the best form of mental stimulation for your dog.