One of the most common statements that people make when hearing about a mobile dog gym is “why not just walk the dog?” The easiest answer to that question is that walking at our pace is hardly exercise for most dogs, and only gives them the most basic level of exercise possible. Walking around the block is hardly even exercise for us, and because a dog’s body is built differently than ours is, a dog needs far more exercise than we do to stay fit and healthy. Some people will take this retort as an attack on the amount that they care for their dog, and will reply with anger that dogs “need to sniff things and run around in fields.” While this is true, and dogs do need to smell all of the things that provide them with stimulation, as well as socializing with humans and other dogs, neither of these things count as very much exercise at all. People who believe that walking your dog is enough exercise for them are simply confusing socialization with exercise, and the dog is suffering because of it.
To understand the difference, we must first understand that dogs are not going to exercise themselves on their own. Dogs are naturally opportunists, and will find the path of least resistance with regards to exerting energy. They are programmed to conserve as much energy as possible, simply because in the wild they do not know when they will find their next meal. The needless expenditure of energy will potentially waste precious calories that could be the difference between life and death in the wild, if food is not plentiful. This is why dogs in the wild will burn calories when they are hungry, but not when they are full. As food becomes more plentiful and easier to access, dogs will naturally become fatter through a lack of caloric burn, all in preparation for the next season where food will be scarce. Their bodies need to plan for that starvation period accordingly, by keeping as much body mass as possible. When food becomes less plentiful, they will expect to burn far more calories in order to get their next meal, and it will be necessary to stock up in order to survive that period. Because of this cycle, dogs have evolved to naturally act a certain way, getting fatter during periods where calories are plentiful and leaner when food is scarce. This is seen by them conserving calories through rest and sleeping during one period, and continually running and chasing in the next. Their bodies are designed to provide exercise for their muscles not through forced exercise itself, but through the act of hunting for food. When we domesticated dogs for our own purposes, we upset this cycle by providing everything they need to them without effort, effectively eliminating their need to expend energy on for hunting. This may make their life easy as far as finding food, but it is killing them with regards to a lack of exercise destroying their natural state of their bodies. Dogs need to run in order to keep their muscles, heart and lungs strong. We have effectively eliminated their need to do this, without changing their bodies as well. The result is an unhealthy dog that dies far earlier than it should, due to never getting the exercise that it’s body needs.
When hunting, dogs will walk at a fast pace for long periods searching for food, then run in short bursts of speed to catch that food. This is the way their bodies gain the exercise that keeps them strong and healthy, and also keeps their natural pre drive strong. When you play fetch or throw a ball for your dog, you are tapping into that instinctual prey drive. They enjoy this activity, combined with the bursts of speed that come with hunting. “The zoomies” that your dog exhibits sometimes in your house in an overabundance of energy and no way to release it. Their body is saying to hunt, but there is nothing to chase. This is simply because they are no longer getting what they are in desperate need of, mental stimulation of hunting and bursts of speed as exercise. When you walk your dog leisurely around the block, or take them to a park to run off leash, they are only getting the smallest amounts of stimulation and exercise. They are not actually getting what they need, but unfortunately we have convinced ourselves that this is enough for them to be healthy and happy. Yes, it is good for bonding you and your dog, and it is good for socialization with other dogs, but it is not enough exercise. It is your responsibility to figure out ways to actually exercise and stimulate your dog, if you want what is best for them.
RUN DAWG Mobile Dog Gym simulates chasing and running using non-motorized treadmills and positive encouragement to stimulate dogs to try and catch something they like. We also use high intensity interval training to simulate the short bursts of speed that wild dogs use to catch prey. The result is a dog that is physically healthier, as well as getting a higher level of mental stimulation than walks alone.