Big Backyard and Dog Exercise

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Tino, sleeping in his big backyard

Tino, sleeping in his big backyard

What a great piece by Dr. Ken Tudor on PawNation! Dr. Tudor debunks the myth that having a big backyard means that your dog is getting proper exercise!

The Myth of the Big Backyard and Dog Exercise – PawNation.

I found a few passages in this article particularly on point and have copied them below (italics are mine).  Be sure to read the whole article, it is worth it.

Dr. Ernie Ward, in his book Chow Hounds, examined this misconception. He notes that when they are initially put out in the backyard, dogs naturally run the perimeter of the yard to ensure the family “pack” borders have not been breached by intruders. The owner sees this as they turn and close the door to return inside and leave the dog to exercise. Finally when the owner opens the door, the dog is at full steam returning to the owner. As Dr. Ward writes about the owner response (“Wow, that dog never slows down!”) without realizing that the dog did nothing but lay around the yard during its entire time alone.

Other researchers have confirmed that pet dogs and wild dogs spend most of their time resting. For wild dogs it is a way of conserving energy between scarce meals. The behavior has not changed with domestication. A study in 1992 confirmed that solitary dogs rest 80 percent of their alone time, while multiple dogs rest 60 percent of the time. Dogs, like humans, need a reason to exercise. Although multiple dogs in a confined yard may play more than the solitary dog, owners still overestimate the amount of their activity.

Makes sense to me, and consistent with my own observations.  We have been lucky enough to have relatively larger, gated back (and front) yards and our dogs loved them.  But other than a daily ‘perimeter walk’, they used the yards mostly for snoozing in the sun or beneath the trees.  It was only when we went out and engaged the dogs with games of fetch, chase, or hide and seek that the dogs actually did anything resembling real exercise.


What about you out there?  What does your dog do in your backyard when your aren’t out there with them?  How many of you have dogs that prefer the yard to the house for lounging?

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  1. I agree 100%. As a housing counselor, I work with lots of people who insist they need a big yard for their dogs.

    When I hear that, I worry that they’re going to send their dogs out into the yard for “exercise” and the poor dogs aren’t going to get any stimulation.

    That said, Honey sometimes likes to lie in the flower bed on a spring day. I do too.
    Pamela recently posted…Know Your Limits – Good for the Dog; Good for YouMy Profile

    • It’s nice to have a big yard for sure. I know of some folks that have many acres and they still have ‘fat’ dogs. As we say here, ‘get off your butt, workout with your mutt’ – in your yard, a park, anywhere!

  2. Wow, I just discovered your blog and LOVE IT!! Im a huge dog fitness critic, (Im the guy who tells people their dogs are fat) and this article is AWESOME!

    People need to read articles like this to hopefully spark some thought in their minds and realize all the exercise their dogs are NOT getting.

    It makes me think about all the people I have worked with who have issues with their toy breeds that stem from under stimulation. Somewhere in history some genius said little dogs don’t need yards…which lead to many people thinking they dont need exercise either. Anyone who has ever been around a jack russell will tell you the error in this way of thinking.

    Again, great article and awesome blog!
    KD Mathews recently posted…What’s The Rush??My Profile

    • Thanks so much KD. Please share our site with other dog lovers that you know. And make sure to tell folks about our App- which helps dog owners manage their dog’s weight. As you know, this is a big problem. People just don’t know exactly how much they should feed their dog and we help answer that question. Cheers!

  3. That’s very interesting, and I can see how that could certainly be the case with some dogs. In my own experience, my dogs have been super-high energy and very active outdoors, but I can imagine that happening with less energetic dogs.
    Coralee and Finn recently posted…Why Toby RocksMy Profile

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