FunNature & AnimalHealth benefits of exercise for your dog

Health benefits of exercise for your dog

We are all used to the image of a human being walking accompanied by his dog, the most basic exercise that we can share between the rational and the non-rational.

But we can also say that it is more and more common to find people accompanied by their dogs doing some type of shared physical exercise, or those who are encouraged to perform a specific sport, as would be the case of Agility.

Apart from the obvious and positive organic work that the exercise provides for the participants, there is a benefit that is as or more important than the contribution of muscle toning, circulatory improvement… which is the reinforcement of the bond between the human and the canine, a reinforcement that opens the doors to an improvement in communication and greater enjoyment of the relationship.

If we stick to the purely physical, we must be VERY aware that we must do everything possible to adapt the type of exercise, sport, or activity to the individual characteristics of our dog: not all exercises are suitable for all types of animals.

We could say that the achievement of a special activity, of a sport, depends to a great extent on:

  • The genetic predisposition of the animal to perform certain tasks.
  • The type of training received.
  • Of the adequate feeding of the animal for the special requirements that it faces.

Genetic factors

The genetic characteristics of a dog must be adapted as much as possible to the type of exercise it is going to perform… it is difficult to imagine a Saint Bernard running after a hare lure or a Pomeranian preying on a sleeve…

But something that we must never forget is that the DESIRE of the animal to fulfill its functions is really decisive; if a hunting dog does not have the slightest interest in marking the piece… if a shepherd dog does not want to take care of the herd, the genetic characteristics, the best training and the most adequate feeding lose all their strength.

There are also physical limitations: body conformation, the possible existence of orthopedic problems, the type of muscle fiber… all these circumstances can limit the performance of the animal.

Finally, we will say that training and nutrition improve performance, but they never manage to counteract possible genetic limitations.


A correct training plan must ensure that the intensity, duration and frequency correspond to the real capacity of the animal and the desired level of performance.

There are many sports dogs that are poorly trained; this is generally due to the seasonality of their sporting work, as in the case of hunting dogs: much of the year inactive and few periods in high performance.

A correct training must provide the animal with constant exercise: if the training plan is adequate, we will achieve an adaptation of the animal to the function to be performed, we will even substantially improve the possible genetic deficiencies of the individual for the achievement of a specific function.

The changes experienced, the BENEFITS during an appropriate training:

  • They enhance bone mass.
  • They facilitate muscle hypertrophy.
  • Produces an expansion of plasma volume.
  • Increases and improves cardiovascular function…

All these organic changes, the result of an adequate training plan, ensure that the animal presents a higher performance.


It is evident that food, no matter how adequate it may be, will never counteract genetic deficiencies or those of inadequate training.

What an adequate diet does offer us is that the sport dog can perform a function according to its genetics and the training received.

As with any other dog, the type of food, the amount received and the method of feeding must meet its needs.

Evaluation of the animal and the exercise

When we have a dog and we want to subject it to some type of exercise, we must bear in mind that a visit to the veterinarian to assess the real state of the animal is an essential preliminary step.

The professional must have detailed information on the animal’s lifestyle, whether it lives inside or outside the home, the exercise it has performed up to now spontaneously (by itself) or induced (with us), the number of animals that accompany him…

In the information to the veterinarian we must comment on the food, supplements and “prizes”, quantity, moment of feeding in relation to exercise…

With these data and the performance of the tests that the professional considers appropriate (blood analysis, feces and urine, X-ray, electro…) to assess the health status of the animal, we will consider the type of exercise to perform.

Exercise can be classified into three groups:

  • High intensity for less than two minutes.
  • Intermediate intensity for a few minutes or a few hours.
  • Endurance for many hours.

Most of the dogs that develop some physical activity are included in the second group, those of intermediate intensity activity.

It is also very important, for a complete assessment, to know if the animal will face extreme temperatures, “psychological” stress or territories with difficult access:

  • High temperatures increase work and water loss.
  • High ambient humidity reduces evaporative cooling and increases the organic work required to lose heat.
  • Cold temperatures increase energy requirements and cause heat dissipation during exercise.
  • Stress increases body temperature and respiratory rate so energy requirements are higher.

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