Part of life with our dogs is the daily – or twice daily – dog walk. When we look to take a dog into our lives, one of the things we look at is how much exercise they need and factor that into our choice of breed (or at least we should!).
With unpredictable weather changes, the internet is full of discussions about how much exercise a dog needs and how to manage that when the temperatures soar.
What no one seems to really think about is ‘why do dogs need exercise?’. What good does it
After all, feral dogs or village dogs don’t take themselves off for long hikes across the countryside – in fact apart from searching for food and looking for a mate, most of the rest of the time, they are pretty lazy (although in some cases and locations, the search for food can take all day). Exercise uses up energy, which comes from food – and if your food sources are scarce – as they are for most unowned dogs (which make up around 80% of the world’s dogs), wasting it on aimless running around isn’t a great survival strategy.
So why do we exercise our dogs? The obvious one is to give them physical activity which keeps their bodies healthy and their brains happy. We provide them with plenty of good quality food and so conserving energy isn’t something our dogs have to even consider. And of course, we have specifically bred some dogs over hundreds of years to be highly active so they can do the jobs we want them to do – whether that is herd sheep, help hunters or catch vermin.
More than that, however, walking our dogs provides them with enrichment – new sights, sounds, smells and environments that break up the potential boredom of being stuck in a house all day. Unlike unowned dogs who can wander where they choose when they choose and have a life full of stimulation, enrichment and novelty (even if coupled with danger and jeopardy), our dogs in comparison live very sedentary boring lives unless we recognise their need for enrichment and are dedicated to providing that.