Increase Your Dog’s Daily Dose of Exercise with These Simple Tips

exercise dogAs a pet parent, your dog’s health is your responsibility. And an integral part of keeping your pooch healthy is providing him or her with sufficient exercise. We all know walking has the best benefits for overall health in humans, but what about for our canine companions?

It just so happens your dog’s primal need is to walk! Just as horses need to run and squirrels need to climb, dogs need to walk; it’s in their DNA. Sure, letting Rover run around the backyard can be good exercise, it is no substitute for taking him for a walk. Activities like time in the yard, visiting the dog park and playing catch in the house don’t offer the same mental stimulation your dog gets by investigating every sight, sound and smell when you take him for a walk. As you and your dog walk, he’s gathering information about how his territory has changed since the last time he was there, and taking him to new locations generates a sensory excitement like no other.

So how can you find time in your busy day to give Rover the walking wonderfulness he so craves and deserves? It’s simple ~ find a way to include him in your plans!

In the mood for some window shopping? While you obviously can’t bring Rover with you when you visit the mall, you can take him along for some window shopping in your favorite downtown area or outdoor shopping plaza. As long as he’s well-behaved and securely leashed, you should have no objections from shop owners, fellow shoppers or authority figures as Rover stays by your side as you take in the window views.

Need to chat with your neighbor? Rather than pick up the phone and call your neighbor two streets over to ask if she wants to join you for dinner, throw a leash on Rover so the two of you can walk over to ask in person. It may not equate to a long walk, but a short walk is better than nothing!

Heading to your parent’s house for a family get together? Even if their home isn’t within walking distance from your home, you can still drive and get some stroll time in by parking at a nearby restaurant or store and walking the rest of the way.

Need to pick up a few things from your local grocery store? Enlist a family member or friend to join you and Rover on a walk to the store, where your people partner can take care of Rover while you’re inside picking up what you need.

Is a trip to the hardware store on your weekend to-do list? Take Rover along for the ride, then leash him up and bring him inside. Many hardware stores allow dogs (ever notice the woman at Lowe’s pushing her puffy Pomeranian around in the cart?), so take advantage and bring Rover with you on your next visit (check with the store first, of course!). Either before or after your shopping spree, walk him around the grounds for some extra exercise and mental stimulation.

Craving some ice cream? Most ice cream shops have outdoor seating and welcome dogs. Some will even give Rover a complementary doggy sundae! If you live within walking distance of an ice cream shop, take Rover over for a special treat; if not, drive most of the way and park within a mile or so, then walk the remainder of the way.

Whatever your daily plans, chances are there’s one way or another to include your precious pooch in a way that will allow for some extra activity. Not only will an impromptu walk in undiscovered territory be a thrill for your pooch’s senses, but it will also enhance your already strong bond.

Does Your Dog Care When You’re Stressed?

stressedDoes Your Dog Care When You’re Stressed?

Many pet parents feel their dog can read their emotional state and respond accordingly, much like a human would, providing sympathy and comfort in times of sadness, and jumping for joy during happy times. Personally, I’ve had experiences with my dog being extra gentle around me when I wasn’t feeling well, being unusually energetic when I’m acting like a big bundle of happiness, and licking my tears when seeing me cry. I know, without a doubt, that my precious pooch empathizes with me. But, if I were to make that statement to a group of scientists or psychologists, it is more apt to start a debate rather than bring nods of agreement.

Empathy is a Very Complex Emotion

The problem is, empathy is a very complex emotion and the consensus is that the mind of a dog is quite similar to that of a two or three-year-old human, with scientists believing clear evidence of empathy in a human doesn’t appear until his fourth year. Many scientists suggest that a dog cannot be empathetic, but simply sniffing and pawing at a person who is acting in an unusual way out of mere curiosity.

Studies Show…

A study was conducted a few years ago by two psychologists in London to determine whether or not dogs do indeed show empathy when a pet parent is in emotional distress. In the study, the pet parent sat six feet away from a stranger and engaged in several activities, with the pooch present. The two humans would take turns speaking, humming in an unusual fashion, and pretending to cry. The psychologist reasoned that if a dog was showing empathy, his behavior would focus primarily on the person crying, resulting in attempts to comfort or help. It was anticipated that the dog would nuzzle, whine, lick, lay their head on the person’s lap, and offer similar comforting behaviors.

If the dog is simply upset by his parent’s crying, it should go to that person to provide comfort. However, suppose the stranger cries. The dog will not be expected to comfort a stranger who does not have a bond with him, but rather would go to his own pet parent for comfort. The psychologists found the dog actually approached and tried to comfort not only his own parent when crying, but also the stranger, offering what appeared to be sympathy and support much in the way humans display empathy for one another.

More recently, two Psychologists from New Zealand furthered research on the subject by studying whether or not dogs empathize specifically with stress and the findings were nothing short of amazing. They exposed 74 people and 75 dogs of varying breeds to one of three different conditions in order to check the response of both humans and dogs to the sounds produced by infants, all while being filmed. The first group heard the distressing sound of a crying baby; the second an infant babbling; and the third a sample of computer-generated white noise. After listening to the sounds for 13 minutes, saliva samples were taken from the people and the dogs in order to test their cortisol levels, as it is believed the presence of cortisol – a.k.a. “the stress hormone” – might be an indication of empathy for the crying baby.

While neither the people nor the dogs showed a change in cortisol levels in response to the sound of the baby babbling or the white noise, the outcome was different when it came to the sound of the baby crying. The dogs showed alertness, followed by signs of stress, and there was a sharp increase in the concentration of cortisol in their bodies. The same held true for the people in the study. In other words, both the dogs and the people seemed to pick up the emotional distress of the crying baby, effecting their own emotional responses and behavior. In the video clips that support the study, the dogs become obviously upset when hearing the baby’s cries, showed submissive body signals, and sought comfort from their pet parent.

Whether the reactions from the dogs in this study were true empathy or not, the findings serve as yet another example of the fact that dogs do pay attention to our feelings. Like we as pet parents needed scientific studies to tell us that!

Preparing Your Pet for a New (Human) Baby

Many pet parents think of their pet as the “baby” of the family, and when a new infant joins the ranks, he may not handle it well. Not only will he likely receive less attention, but he’ll have to become accustom to new sounds, sights and smells that could very well leave him feeling stressed and insecure. The actions and behaviors of his humans, the presence of a new, loud, strange looking tiny human, combined with a likely change in his routine, can throw off the most well-behaved pet.

Help Fido or Fluffy out by using your pregnancy time to prepare him for the new family addition. Devise a baby-friendly routine for him that will result in minimal changes in his life once baby is born. Familiarize him with sights and sounds of babies to help him remain at ease once the real thing comes into his territory. Something as simple as YouTube videos of babies crying may help, or have a friend visit your home with her baby – just be sure to keep your furry friend well secured for safety purposes. Just don’t try to do too much at once – after all, you have nine months to prepare him.

A happy and submissive dog will naturally show respect for any human – even an infant – so there are a few rules that are wise to establish before baby comes home:

BOUNDARIES. Set an invisible boundary for Fido or Fluffy, making the baby’s nursery off-limits by warning him with a low and stern “NO” when he attempts to enter the room. Later, allow him to enter when supervised, giving him the opportunity to sniff the area. Ensure he leaves the room when you tell him to do so. This tells your fur baby you have control over the room and he needs to respect that control. Repeat the process often, giving him the chance to sniff new items are they are added – just be sure he does not jump on, chew on, spray, lick or bite anything. Some pets fear things that move, so be sure to push the baby’s stroller around in front of him, or rock the rocking chair, to test his reaction. When calm behavior is displayed, reward him with treats and affection to form positive associations with nursery and its contents.

BABY-FRIENDLY ROUTINE. Whether Fido is accustom to an evening walk at 6 p.m., or Fluffy requires a play session in the early afternoon, chances are your routine will change once baby arrives. Soon-to-be parents should create a new routine that will satisfy the needs of a baby and their four-legged friend, and stick with that routine once the new baby comes home to limit undue stress for all parties involved.

MAINTAIN REGULAR EXERCISE. If your yard is fenced, it will be tempting to put Fido outside alone rather than walking him regularly once baby arrives. Big mistake! A dog needs exercise as much as he needs food and water. Keeping up a routine of walking Fido every day with a baby in tow can be a challenge, but here are a few ideas that may make it doable:

  • If Fido’s usual walk time needs to be shortened, consider a doggy backpack (yes, there is such a thing!). A backpack loaded with 10 to 12 percent of your dog’s weight creates a challenge your dog will love, and it will tire him out in just a fraction of the usual time.
  • If Buddy is small, older, and/or extremely well-behaved, a walk beside the stroller carrying baby may work just fine. Take a few practice runs, teaching him to walk calmly beside an empty stroller, to get a feel for his reaction and to gauge his performance.
  • Call All Breed Care to schedule private walks for Fido! Let us help you by taking off some of the pressure, keeping you free to tend to baby and Fido free to enjoy a regular schedule of invigorating daily walks.

Preparing your fur baby for the addition of a human baby is of the utmost importance. Do all you can to make the transition a smooth and stress-free one!