Just Because Your Dog Is Outside, Doesn’t Mean It’s Getting Exercise
Taking the dog out for potty is not the same as an exercise walk. And backyard time is not the same as playtime. In fact, it is the opposite of playtime according to researchers.
You’ve let the dog out the back door. She trots out and heads toward the fence. You close the door and go about your business. Thirty minutes or an hour or two later, you go open the back door and your pup comes charging towards you and through the door. OK, you think, now your dog has gotten some outdoor time and some exercise. It is more likely that your dog has been sitting or lying most of the time.
Well, yes your dog HAS gotten some time outdoors, but he probably has not done much exercise at all!
The misconception starts when the owner opens the door to let the dog out. Often the dog will dash out and run around the yard. Owner closes the door and goes to do something else.
However, that initial dash is typically the dog running to check the borders of the yard to make sure no intruders have breached the perimeter of his or her territory.
The misconception continues when the owner comes back to open the door and let the dog back in. That dash your dog makes coming back to the house is likely his or her excitement to be with you again after a period of isolation in the yard.
So with this display, it may look like the dog has been running and playing the whole time. That is often not the case. Between those dashes, dogs generally slow down a great deal.
Research has concluded that dogs, both pets and in the wild, spend most of their time resting, as much as 80 percent of their alone time (60 percent of the time may be resting when there are multiple dogs). One common theory is that wild dogs rest and conserve energy between hunting and chasing down food, and domestic dogs still retain that behavior.
So, if you do leave your dog in the yard for time to stretch his legs, you can try a few things to encourage a little more active in the yard even alone:
- Create a path or allow your dog to create one along the fence for your dog to run and patrol. Paths encourage your dog to trot by giving him a way to perform their perceived job – patrolling the property and keeping out intruders.
- Have some toys that are yard only toys. Keep those toys new and novel toys by switching them up and they are more likely to be used.
- Provide toys that need more space like large balls that can be bumped and pushed, toys that can be tossed in the air and shaken (especially if they make a noise), toys that can be attached to a tree or pole and pulled.
- Hide treats and toys in the yard.
But remember, time alone in the yard is not substitute for exercise time with you. The most effective exercise your dog can get is when you are actively engaging him or her, whether it is in the form of a walk, a game, roughhousing, training, or practicing tricks.