The Importance of Exercise

Italian Greyhounds are an active and athletic breed that require some good hearty exercise. Walking is a key element in having a healthy and happy dog. Years ago dogs worked, moved and hunted for their food. In today’s world many dogs are alone, trapped inside four walls for 8 to 10 hours each day. This isolation and lack of exercise causes them to become frustrated, bored, anxious and sometimes destructive. We have domesticated our dogs to the point of boredom. To the person who tells me ” My dog sleeps all day”, I ask “Does he or she have a choice?” We are all our dogs have. They don’t have a job, friends, etc., so we must provide them with the stimulation they need and crave! Even a fenced backyard is no substitute for a good walk. Dogs, like people, need to get out! It is a good thing if you do have a backyard because your dog can explore, run, soak up the sunshine and get fresh air. However, a back yard is no substitute for a walk. A dog with a big back yard can still develop frustration and anxiety without the regular outside stimulation that a good walk can provide. That is why daily walks are so important. When I say walk, I mean a walk brisk enough for both the dog and their person to get some real heart pumping exercise! I often hear the excuse, “I don’t walk my dog because he/she pulls on the lead”. Walking on a leash is a skill YOU must teach your dog. If you are unable to teach your dog to walk nicely on lead, a good obedience class can assist you and your dog in mastering this skill.

If you don’t have a fenced backyard, it is wise to find a place where your dog can really “burn” occasionally. This breed can run at a speed of 35 miles per hour! A fenced dog park with a “small dog” area can be a good option. (Note dogs parks, especially those that don’t separate dogs by size, are NOT without their risks, so do your research first. Although dog parks can be a great way to exercise your dog, you need to be aware that all dogs that come there may not be friendly and that there is an increased risk of communicable diseases, parasites, etc.). A fenced ball field or tennis court can also work well for exercising. Indoor rentals of training facilities, obedience classes and even agility are great winter “sports” for your dogs when temperatures dip below freezing and walking is not an option. (Keep in mind that dog coats are necessary when outside in cold weather and the weather must always be a consideration when exercising your IG. A good rule of thumb is: If you need a coat, your IG needs a coat.) Remember, just like people, dogs need exercise for good health. There is nothing more therapeutic and healthful than fresh air and exercise for both 2 legged and 4 legged creatures!

So how much exercise does your IG need? A veterinarian I know put it best when he said they need to walk a MINIMUM of 5 miles each week. That might be 3/4 miles daily or maybe a few blocks daily with occasional longer walks throughout the week. I think this is a good gage for a MINIMUM amount of exercise for this breed. I have a very athletic 7 year old IG who requires almost double that amount of exercise on a weekly basis. Exercise needs can vary from dog to dog, but they should all get the minimum recommended by my vet. This does not count indoor or yard play. The required exercise is the stimulation of brisk walking outside. You should vary your route for variety and, when possible, hit the woods or nature trails for a great walk. This will make the walk more interesting and stimulating for your canine companion. There is nothing like getting back to nature for both human and dogs! Remember, walking a dog is like your dog “reading the newspaper”. He sniffs, he learns, he NEEDS activity, he needs to find out what’s going on outside his world!

There are a few other perks that come with exercising your IG: (1) Walking is great for both your health and your dog’s health. Obesity is the number one health problem in dogs today. Exercise will help your dog’s heart and control your dog’s weight. (2) According to a study, dogs that are the proper weight live 15% longer! (3) You have probably heard the expression “a tired dog is a well behaved dog”. Exercise will curb the anxiety that is often at the root of so many behavioral problems we see in dogs today. Dogs need exercise, especially Italian Greyhounds due to their athletic build. After all, this breed was bred for 2 things, companionship and to run. They need both to have a balanced, healthy life.