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Michelle Bridges's top tips for exercising your dog

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  • RSPCA Australia
  • Friday, 30 April 2021

The RSPCA’s Walk This May is just around the corner and to help get ready we asked fitness icon and passionate animal advocate Michelle Bridges for her top tips on exercising with your pooch best friend/family member. Here’s what she said:

Everybody knows that I love to get out and exercise – it has the power to lift my mood, boost my confidence and it keeps me physically healthy. I strongly believe that everyone can benefit from adding some exercise to their life. 

The same can be said for our dogs! Making time for regular exercise will leave you with a happy and healthy pooch on your hand.  And if your dog is anything like my puppy, Banjo, going for a walk will be the highlight of their day. Banjo’s tail never wags harder than when I pull out the lead for our strolls. 

Exercise is essential for dogs, just the way it is for people. A lack of regular activity can cause all kinds of problems for your pet, so I’ve put together my top tips to keep your best friend happy and healthy using exercise! 

Put puppy play on hold 

If you’ve ever had a puppy, you would know that they seem to have boundless amounts of energy. It can be tempting to let your puppy walk and play to their hearts content, but it’s easy to accidentally overexercise a young dog.  

Puppies are still growing and overexercising can cause long-term damage to their musculoskeletal system. Owners should introduce exercise to a puppy very gradually, starting with short walks on a lead and harness, and increasing intensity and duration over time. And as tempting as it can be, never take puppies on your run or jog. Wait until they’re older and they are fully grown. 

Make sure to be careful when exercising dogs with health conditions (such as brachycephalic or ‘flat-faced’ breeds) – it’s important to seek veterinary advice for any individual dog that has a health problem.

For more advice about how to exercise your puppy, take a look at the RSPCA’s Knowledgebase article here.

Off-lead time is essential 

All dogs should regularly spend time off-leash. I know Banjo loves nothing more than a play at the local off-leash dog park (read the RSPCA’s post about dog park etiquette here). Dogs love to run around and set their own pace; it gives them a sense of freedom and boosts their confidence. It’s important to proactively socialise your puppy so they can relate well to other dogs and people.

If your dog can’t be off-lead in public areas, I recommend spending some time in the backyard throwing safe toys or balls to encourage them to run around and burn off any extra energy. Banjo is crazy about tennis balls, so I will spend 15 minutes every few days throwing a ball for him in the backyard for some play time. It’s important to remember though to limit ball throwing and catching for puppies. Even if it looks like they can catch all day, they can easily injure themselves by over doing it or landing awkwardly. It’s also a good idea to avoid throwing sticks due to the high risk of injury.

Hydrate and rest when needed 

Remember to keep an eye on your dog for signs of fatigue or dehydration; it’s important to let them rest when they need it. If your dog sits or lies down during their walk give them some time to relax before resuming any activity.

Some dogs love playing with balls and toys so much that they simply don’t know when to stop! (Cough, cough… Banjo…) Take note of when your dog is becoming excessively tired and make the call to end the game for them. Also, avoid any ‘forced’ exercise, such as running alongside your bike or overly fast or long walks, particularly if your dog is not used to this type of exercise. 

If you are visiting a dog park or are planning on spending a good chunk of time at a local beach or gardens, I recommend you bring a portable water bottle to ensure your pooch stays hydrated. Banjo has a cute little portable water bowl that I fill up with my own water when I go to my local park. 

Walk your dog and raise money to fight animal cruelty 

Exercise is always more fun when you have a goal in mind. Make your dog walks even more fun by signing up to RSPCA’s Million Paws Walk: Walk this May

By registering for Walk this May, and logging all your dog walks for the month of May on the Million Paws Walk Pawdometer, you can help raise money for the RSPCA. Registering is free and you can rest easy knowing that every time you walk your dog, you are helping RSPCA end cruelty to all animals! 


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