Big Backyard and Dog Exercise
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!
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?