How much exercise does my dog really need?
The “myth of the backyard” is so wide-spread that many people think that what dogs need first and foremost is a fenced backyard. I hear quite often that “I would love to have a dog, but we don’t have enough space for him. It wouldn’t be fair.”
Most people I know want to do what’s best for a dog, realizing how important it is to his overall health and happiness that he gets enough exercise. They feel like they can’t be great pet parents without a ton of space, inside and out, for their pup to run around in and explore.
A surprising number of people think that if a dog has a yard, the dog doesn’t need to be walked or otherwise exercised. They think that a backyard will magically exercise and entertain their dog.
Conversely, many people think it’s cruel to keep a dog in a small apartment or other type of dwelling that doesn’t have a backyard. This myth is so pervasive that many “dog breed reviews” will declare that only certain low-energy breeds or tiny dogs are good for apartment living, but all other dogs need their yards. I don’t agree!
Myth of the backyard
The myth, of course, is a myth. Dogs do enjoy having access to a backyard, and having a fenced yard can make life a lot easier for a dog owner because of the ease of potty breaks, but dogs don’t need backyards. Nor do they self-exercise in backyards!
Several groups have studied how dogs behave in their own backyards. They put up video cameras or attached GPS units to the dogs, put them out in the yard as normal, and monitored their activity. Most dogs barely move in their yards. Mostly, they give the impression of waiting around for their owners to show up.
Well then, what would motivate a dog?
Some examples are: hunting or retrieving, agility work, and running, walking, hiking or playing fetch with his owner. Most dogs will happily exercise when there’s a purpose to it!
Even better, give them a job to do and they can and will go all day- happily!
After all, working dog breeds like collies, retrievers, setters and terriers, were bred to work and they will find a job to do one way or the other;).
Can I really live in an apartment with a Border Collie?
Based on the dogs that were studied, almost all of their daily exercise occurred in the company of their owner (or an owner stand-in such as a dog walker). Therefore, I believe even high-energy dogs can live in apartments just as well as in places with yards, assuming their owner makes sure they get plenty of exercise each day.
In fact, apartment-dwelling dogs often get far more exercise than “yard dogs” or even “farm dogs.” The apartment-dweller is fully aware that her dog’s exercise depends on her and is careful to walk the dog or arrange for other forms of exercise for her pup.
But some of us have to work!
Instead of being alarmed at these facts, consider instead what they really mean. If you hate yard-work, don’t want to commute to your job from the suburbs, have no interest in buying a farm just for the dog, or just need to spend time a lot of time at work, you can still be an ideal dog-owner.
Have no fear- there are many ways to get your dog the exercise he needs! If you’re active yourself, bring him along with you! If you go to the gym to run on a treadmill, head out for a run with your buddy in the fresh air instead- he will thank you for it!
There are also plenty of dog sports and activities you can enjoy with your dog, agility being the most well-known and a great physical and mental workout for your pup. Field trials, Rally and Flyball are also popular with high-energy breeds. Here’s a more comprehensive list: Dog Sports
Finally, if you’re looking to save time and enjoy coming home to a well-exercised dog, you can hire a dog-walker (or runner, depending on your dog), and presto, a happier, healthier dog.
If you’re interested in bringing a dog in to your life, but are unsure of whether it makes sense, please don’t hesitate to send us an email or give us a call. We can walk you through the decision and even help you choose a dog that would fit in to your world perfectly!
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