Your dog's most important needs are good nutrition, regular exercise, and tough-love (discipline with plenty of lovin'). Today I want to talk about dogs and exercise.
It's great if you walk your dog twice a day or more, but most breeds will develop nervous habits if that's all they get. They also get fat, which leads to health problems like heart disease and arthritis. Goldens, Dobermans, Labs, Jack Russells, Shih Tzus, Lhasas, Dalmations, Scotties, Westies, Wheatons, Collies, Cockers, Bulldogs... each breed needs a different amount and kind of exercise, but don't kid yourself, they all need some!
Time after time people tell me their dog gets plenty of exercise - she can go out in the back yard anytime she wants (people with dog doors, or whose kids let the dog out). First of all, make sure she's fenced in!! Some people like invisible electric fences; I hate them with a passion. But that's for another posting. The point is PLEASE don't let your dog outside if you don't have a fenced in area for her. Even if you live in the wilds of Australia. Encounters with wildlife always go badly for somebody, and usually it's your dog. Here in New England, we live side-by-side with hungry coyotes and foxes, as soon as you get out of major metropolitan areas. Even in cities, fights with racoons (who can be very aggressive), and chasing squirrels are activities that harm pets all the time.
Even supposing your dog is safe in your yard, you really don't know what she's doing out there unless you supervise her. So, go ahead, let her out to pee if you're in a rush and there's a fenced-in area. But don't be lazy all the time! Go out with her, encourage her to do her business and praise her. Then throw a ball or a frisbee a few times, or even just play with her. That way you know she's getting the elevated heartbeat and mental stimulation she craves. A few dogs can be depended upon to play by themselves, but they're the exception. Most will come back inside as soon as they can, 'cause they're gregarious. They want to be with their pack (you and your family). Run around with her, play tug of war, whatever. Both of you, go ahead, get off that couch!
But you're exhausted when you get home at night, right? Me too!! So who wants to throw a ball for Benny (whose a ballaholic - doesn't want one throw, wants twenty). The answer is... DAYCARE!!!! Dog daycare is the best thing since sliced bread, providing that you find a place that is clean (no smells!) and has high standards around supervision, handling, and the health of each guest. The very best place if you're anywhere near central Massachusetts is The Doggie Den (www.thedoggieden.net). Our doggie guests play in large indoor areas under constant supervision all day long. We wash down both the play areas and the outdoor area where the guests do their business with a high quality animal quarters disinfectant called Cherry 256. It kills all the parasites, bacteria, and virii that make doggie daycare chancey in less fastidious places. Vets will tell you they're not crazy about daycare 'cause it spreads disease. But not us!! Local vets recommend us because we send dogs with a cough or diarrhea home. I've been trained in doggie first aid, and in the basic symptoms of the most common ailments. Our customers are grateful that we signal any problem right away and recommend a trip to the vet's office. We do not let dogs associate with others if we suspect a communicable disease.
The other thing you want to know about your potential play group or day care is: how much exercise does my Baby really get? At The Doggie Den, our guests are free to play from 9am to 6pm. We open at 7am, and we crate the arrivals or leash them in place until 9am, when everyone is freed for the rest of the day. Be sure to ask if doggie guests are crated or restrained for any part of the day. At The Doggie Den we get constant 'thank you's' from customers whose dogs come home exhausted! And that's what you want. Supervised play for extended periods of time! And there should be comfy bedding available in the play areas so the pups can rest when they want to. At The Doggie Den we give everyone a treat at 1pm, then sit down and encourage them to rest. Just like kids' daycare!