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What's a good exercise routine for my dog?

My dog is nine years old, and is a happy, healthy fellow. He does not get much exercise, though. What is a good exercise routine for him?

There are many ways to exercise your dog, but the key is to start him out slowly and then steadily increase the length and intensity of his workouts. It is the same philosophy as with humans. Too much too fast will cause soreness and could even damage weak ligaments.

Walking is still one of the best exercises. A medium-sized dog should be walked about one and one-half to two miles a day. Some dogs also love to run, but I would recommend a two or three week walking routine before working up to short jogs. Use your own judgment as to when your dog has had enough by how he acts the following day. If he is getting stiff, or is slow to rise, you should slow things down a bit.

Games that dogs love to play also provide good exercise. Fetching thrown objects, or playing hide-and-seek when two or more people are present, are excellent diversions for dogs. We don't recommend tug-of-war because it can cause damage to your dog's teeth, and tends to increase aggressive tendencies.

Other means of exercise include agility training, doggy play-groups, and obedience classes. Most dogs enjoy these activities because it works their mind as well as their body. If you search out a play-group, try to find one that has dogs of similar ages and carefully "test" them together on leashes first. Sometimes play can get out of hand and escalate into a fight.

If you have any questions about your dog's health and its ability to exercise safely, consult your regular veterinarian. A veterinary examination will reveal if an underlying heart condition or other problem exists that could make exercise dangerous.

For additional information, see our magazine article on how to keep that winter flab off your pooch. Go to www.vetcentric.com, click on magazine, and then enter "exercise" in the search box.