There are couch potato dogs, and then there are active dogs. Both are loved equally and fully, of course. But while some dogs can chill for hours on end and be perfectly happy, other dogs are high-intensity and need plenty of physical and mental exercise to stay sane. 

Chances are, you probably know which dog you have. If halfway through every movie they’re ready to run a marathon, you’ve got yourself an active dog. If your dog persistently brings guests all their toys one by one with the hopes they’ll play fetch. Yup, active dog.

Here are some tips to keep them happy and healthy.

Born to Run

First and foremost, exercise must be on the agenda every single day. Remember that most active dog breeds were bred for a purpose. And that purpose was work, hard work. Here are some breeds that brought home the bacon:

  • German Shepherd – In the 1800s, German Shepherds were bred for their namesake. Human shepherds used these dogs to run circles around meandering sheep and bring them all together. They’re still one of the primary breeds for police and military work because of their intelligence and strength.
  • Golden Retriever – Also taking to its namesake (a trend you’ll notice with many dogs), Golden Retrievers were used as hunting partners originally. When a hunter would take down fowl or other games, the Retriever would be the one to hunt it down and retrieve it. With an incredible nose and a thick coat to keep them warm, Retrievers were useful in any weather or condition.
  • Siberian Husky – Everybody recognizes the Siberian Husky. These are the dogs that pull sleds across a vast distance every year in the Iditarod Race. It is 938 grueling miles in snow over the course of 8-10 days. If you’re wondering what kind of physical exercise your Husky needs… Well, let’s say a lot.

Diet to Match

It’s gains season every season when you have an active dog. All that running around and hiking and pulling sleds and lifting weights builds up a hearty appetite. What’s that? Your dog isn’t lifting weights?

Regardless, active dogs are burning calories and building muscle, which means you need to be feeding them regular healthy meals that sustain their energy output. When you’re creating their meal plan, consider all of the following:

  • Watch for overfeeding – Gaining a pound or two won’t ruin their beautiful figure, but packing on the weight will cause them harm. Extra weight puts additional pressure on joints, causing early arthritis or hip dysplasia. Remember, most dogs are inclined to the seafood diet—when they see food, they eat it. If you don’t control their input, nobody will.
  • Watch for underfeeding – On the flip side, if your dog starts looking skinny and they’re losing steam on routine hikes, you might not be feeding them enough. Underfed dogs don’t have the proper nutrients to regulate their internal organs properly
  • Supplementing – No, supplementation does not entail sharing your protein shake with your furry companion. Instead, consider a supplement that targets your dog’s age and the problems they’re having. For example, Vetericyn’s ALL-IN supplement is age-specific and supports your dog’s immune system, joints, mental health, gut health, and more.

Mental Stimulation

There’s a good possibility that your physically active dog also enjoys being mentally active as well. This is especially true for those worker breeds mentioned above. Additionally, if you have any of the following, know that your dog is a smarty-pants, and mental stimulation should be built into daily routines:

  • Border Collie
  • Poodles
  • German Shepherd
  • Golden retriever
  • Dobermann
  • Rottweiler
  • Sheltie

What does proper mental stimulation look like? Good question.

  • Social interactions – Saying hello to other dogs and gossiping about their owners is totally natural. Be sure to bring your dog around the local dog park so they can socialize and build bigger brains. 
  • New tricks – Always wanted a dog that could open the pantry and bring you a pop-tart? Well, that’s going to take learning many small tricks and combining them together. In the meantime, your dog will appreciate the mental stimulation. And you’ll appreciate the fruit pop-tarts of your labor.
  • Increase their vocabulary – The top 20% of intelligent dogs can have a vocabulary of about 250 words. Your average dog is no slouch either; a well-trained dog can understand about 165 different words.
  • New walking paths – Dogs lead with their nose. Offering them new walking paths full of unfamiliar smells and scents will stimulate their brains in the best ways.

Tender, Love, and Care

Something that every dog (and human) needs is a good session of TLC every day. Tender love and care could mean grooming, belly rubs, or any form of quality time where you and your dog can bond in a meaningful way.

Happy and Healthy Dog

Offer your dog these four things every day for a happy and healthy dog. Exercise and brain stimulation keep them physically and mentally young. A good diet helps maintain their energy levels. And of course, a belly rub keeps their love buckets overflowing.


Munch Zone. Top 10 Working Dog Breeds.

Iditarod. History.

Petful. How Many Words Can a Dog Understand?


Dr. Melinda J. Mayfield-Davis, DVM, WCHP-AH, brings over 20 years of experience in veterinary medicine.  She is the Technical Services Veterinarian with Innovacyn, Inc., parent company of Vetericyn Animal Wellness. She received her DVM from Oklahoma State University and now resides in Southeast Kansas with her husband, two children, four dogs, and six horses. Prior to working with Innovacyn, Dr. Mayfield owned and operated the Animal Care Center in Columbus, KS.

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