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Fido may have a cushy spot on your couch (and seem quite content there), but a dog in motion is a happy, healthy dog. Without an adequate outlet for their energy, even sweet, easygoing
dogs can quickly develop a trifecta of serious issues: Bad behavior brought on by boredom, excess weight and potentially significant health problems.
Long before human intervention divided the canine family tree into diverse branches such as the
Irish Setter, the
Alaskan Malamute and the
Yorkshire Terrier (and all combinations thereof), feral dogs spent their waking hours using their wits and their bodies to search for food. Sometimes they hunted and sometimes they scavenged, but they were on the move, working for the next meal to keep them alive.
When humans came into the picture, many
dogs became even more active. The majority of breeds worldwide were developed through selective breeding to help hunters and farmers get and protect their own food supplies. All the retrievers, hounds, terriers, setters, shepherds and
collies of the world are a testament to these work-dogs, who are born with a drive to earn their keep. Thanks to centuries of selective breeding, a dog's body is made to move and to complete countless physical tasks in the service of humankind.
You can see the inherited habits for yourself. They all have them, though they're buried deeper in some dogs than others. Everything about a dog is designed to see and go after potential prey: the way his eyes focus, the way his nerves are routed, the way he's on his feet and after that tennis ball and the movement toward the door when it's time for a walk.
An animal with a strong instinct to take off running wants and needs exercise. Movement helps a dog shed excess pounds as well as behavior problems. And keeping him active is good for you: Studies show you'll be more likely to be more fit as well, and you and your dog will be more tightly bonded.
The best exercise for any dog is something that engages both body and mind. You can start with something simple, or dedicate your life to training and competing with your dog. It doesn't matter, as long as you start. As the saying goes, "Every journey starts with a single step," which is why there's a natural place to begin — walking! What are you waiting for? Grab a leash and hit the road with your dog! These activities will soon reveal the tenet all veterinarians hold dear: A tired dog is a happy dog.
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