Dog Manual

Excercising Your Dog

The importance of exercise for the maintenance of the general well-being and happiness of the dog has been highly overrated. The complexity of modern civilization has imposed such severe restrictions on the exercising of dogs that it is often quite impractical or totally impossible to give the dog the amount of exercise that, according to its natural attributes, it would seem to require. In spite of this, the adjustment of these animals has been so remarkable that they seem not to have suffered any substantial loss of vitality, nor has their longevity been materially effected.

From the standpoint of the dog's natural inheritance and physical attributes, its exercise requirements would seem to be prodigious. When sporting or working dogs are on the job, they may run as many as fifty to a hundred miles a day almost effortlessly, and they would seem to require fifteen to twenty miles of daily exercise solely to keep their muscles in a proper state of vigor. Even the terriers and nonsporting varieties seem to need four to five miles of exercise just to warm up. Only the toy breeds present no exercise problem; these little animals usually can get all they need under ordinary conditions.

If a dog is exercised according to its natural dictates, it will achieve a razor-sharpness of exuberant well-being very similar to that of a highly trained human athlete. But it is only the relatively rare dog—such as the farm or range animal, the hunter, or the animal on a large estate—that is living under conditions ideally suited to its natural attributes.

Most dog owners live either in small homes or apartments. While the small-home owner can allow his animal to romp in the back yard for many hours at a time, it is still rather unlikely that any but the smaller varieties of dogs can get sufficient exercise in this manner. The apartment-house dweller in most cities is forced by law to restrain his animal on a leash when taking it out for a walk. How any dog, outside of the toys or small terriers, can get sufficient exercise in this manner is hard to imagine!

But when all is said and done, what has been the over-all debilitating effect of this lack of exercise on dogs? Amazingly enough, not very much. In spite of the physical disadvantage we have imposed on most of our dogs in not keeping them tuned up to athletic razor-sharpness, they still seem to be clean, sleek, vigorous, happy, and healthy, and they generally live to a ripe old age. Only occasionally will difficulties arise that are directly attributable to lack of exercise. When animals such as Great Danes are raised in one- or two-room city apartments, they will sometimes have physical breakdowns after several years of such preposterous confinement. But even such occurrences are not as common as is generally believed.

Sentimentalists may claim that it is the love of dog for man that somehow has made up for this deficiency. Scientists will be more modest and will probably suggest that it is simply a manifestation of an admirable adjustment; that furthermore it may be a practical demonstration of possible proof that we have tended to overestimate the importance of exercise to dog health, and that some of our old ideas regarding exercise needs for dogs may have to be revised.