All dogs need exercise. All of them. The amount of exercise varies by the type of dog, the shape, the size and the original purpose of the breed or breeds that lurk in the genetic code of a particular dog, but all dogs need something to do.
Bored dogs can be destructive, and you wouldn't believe all the things we veterinarians have surgically removed from the insides of dogs who didn't have anything better to do than eat a doll, a remote control, rocks or a hamper full of dirty underwear.
And it's not just boredom that's the problem. Sedentary dogs can become overweight, which leads to all kinds of health problems. If you want to be a good dog owner, you'll have to have your dog's heart pumping at an aerobic rate on a regular basis. (And watch the portion sizes, too!)
Don't think that getting another dog will automatically solve the problem. While some dogs (typically young ones) will play with one another, most will not do so enough to cut into the exercise deficit. Which means, of course, you now have two dogs who need more time and attention, not just one.
Some dogs need more exercise than most people are willing to give them. These guys are often tagged as "hyper," and you can find a lot of them in the shelters, and that's a shame, since more exercise would have made them much easier to live with -- and time would have settled them down as well.
The truth is that you can settle a "hyper" dog by making sure those exercise needs are met, and it's really not that hard. Our golden retriever, Shakira, is lovingly known as "She-Crazy" for her high levels of energy. You'd think that since we live on a ranch, she'd keep herself exercised, but that's not the case at all. Keeping her healthy falls to me, not only as a veterinarian, of course, but also as the person who keeps the tennis balls flying. For this, I use a Chuckit!, a ball-flinger that has to be one of the best pet care inventions ever. With the Chuckit!, I can exhaust She-Crazy in short order without giving myself a sore throwing arm.
While fetch is a great way to exercise many dogs, not all dogs are that interested in retrieving. For those dogs, a long walk, a trip to the dog park for a meet-up with play buddies, a few miles of biking or a good swim is just the ticket.
If time is a problem, you can fill the exercise gap with doggie day care, a dog-walker or even dog-hikers, who take small groups of dogs out of the city for long hikes. If these businesses don't exist in your area, you might try asking around to see if you can get another dog lover to take your dog out with hers, or a neighbor kid to walk or run your dog.
Just don't neglect your dog's need to move: Staying fit is key to a happy, healthy dog!
Tests can help
decode dog mix
Q: We adopted a shelter dog that appears to be just about as mixed as can be imagined. The shelter guessed there was some terrier, but beyond that people have guessed anything from poodle to dachshund to Chihuahua. We're thinking of getting one of those DNA tests done. What do you think?
A: Sounds like you have what my dad used to call a Heinz 57 -- a true-blue, good-ol'-fashioned All-American mutt. Gotta love 'em!
Two of my four dogs are complete mixes, and one I'm pretty sure is a pit bull-Lab cross. Only our golden retriever is of just one breed of dog. Not that any of their breeding matters, because you know we love them all.
As for the DNA tests: I recommend them. From a medical standpoint, the information can be important when you're trying to avoid or deal with certain breed-specific health problems, such as known drug sensitivities in some breeds, or skin problems in others.
From the standpoint of a dog owner, the point of these tests can just be plain fun -- and often very surprising. I decided to use the Mars Wisdom Panel -- one of a couple such tests on the market -- to check out the DNA of the two most mixed of my canine cocktails, Quixote and Quora.
Quixote first. When we adopted him as a little fuzzy brown puppy, we were told he was a mix of papillion, poodle and Yorkshire terrier. The DNA testing told a slightly different story: Quixote is a mix of Chihuahua, Yorkshire and Pomeranian.
Quora, adopted as an adult because she looked enough like Quixote to be related, turned out to be a Pomeranian and Cairn Terrier mix, with a dash of a breed absolutely no one could have guessed, Shar Pei. (Guess her wrinkles came out in the wash.)
While these tests have their skeptics, there's certainly no harm beyond the cost (about $70) in checking out your own dog -- and a fair amount of benefit to be gained. Ask your veterinarian about them. -- Dr. Marty Becker
(Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Patience eases re-entry
for post-vet-visit cat
-- A trip to the veterinarian can send a cat into a full-blown snit that can last for hours after the return home. The smells of a veterinary setting can even set off other feline family members, who may become aggressive toward the returnee. Let your cat pick the speed at which he settles back into the household after a trip to the veterinarian. When you get home, put the carrier down in a quiet place, open the carrier door and leave him alone. Your cat may stay in the carrier for a while, may head for the nearest bed to hide under, or may step out and be just fine. To help "de-vet" the scent of the returnee so other family cats will settle down, try running a towel over the cat who stayed behind and then swiping it over the returning cat. The use of Feliway, a synthetic pheromone that's like "Kumbaya" in a bottle, may also help ease the transition.
-- At Arlington National Cemetery, horses still play a ceremonial role in honoring the service and sacrifice of those buried there: They're used to pull caissons bearing the flag-draped caskets of service members and veterans to their final resting spots.
-- Parrots are attracted to the sound of their own voice, or at least one that's similar. A study by the University of California, Irvine, found that female budgerigars prefer mates who sound like themselves. Although the parrots have an ability to imitate other voices, which is often used in the mating process where the male learns to sound like the female, the study shows that female parrots are most attracted to the male if he naturally sounds like her at their first meeting, before any imitation is done. The findings also highlighted the greater help males will give to nesting females if her sound is similar to his. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Mikkel Becker and Ed Murrieta
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Dr. Becker can also be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker.