Finding A Balance With Exercise

For the third time since I got a second dog, I find myself in the position of trying to balance the needs of dogs with different exercise needs. I know I'm very much not alone in this, so thought I would share my experiences!

Back in 2015, Ripley joined the family. As an eight week old puppy, he clearly was not physically ready to join Vinnie on walks - at that time, Vinnie was seven years old and in prime fitness. In addition, it was important for me to spend time with each dog separately; time to build a relationship with Ripley, making me his focus rather than Vinnie, and quality time with Vinnie so that he didn't feel left out due to the new arrival. So there was a time commitment, needing to go out more than my usual once per day. It wasn't that big, as Ripley's exercise tolerance was low, and being out in the big wide world was also mentally tiring.

Puppy in a carry bag
Ripley in his carrier

Of course there were times when I needed to take both out at the same time - this was relatively easy as Ripley was a small puppy who could either be carried in my arms, or in the carrier I had for him. I could let him have some time on the ground, but then carry him for portions of the walk so that he didn't get too tired.

(TOP TIP! More exercise is NOT the way to tire your puppy out, but that's a topic for another day!)

Fast forward about eighteen months... Vinnie is injured and has surgery on both knees (you can read his full story here) Once we started his rehab, I had to build his walks up from five minutes. So once again, I had to commit time to taking each dog out separately. Of course this was quite easy to start with, as five minutes isn't very long! As his tolerance and strength increased, I had to consider whether it was appropriate to try and take both dogs at the same time; lead walking is excellent for all dog's fitness so Ripley would definitely benefit from it. I also used routes where I could take both dogs on one circuit, return Vinnie to the car, and then continue on for a bit longer with Ripley. I could also split walks up by walking so far, stopping for a break and then continuing on. During this break, I could do some training with Ripley (again, using his brain to tire him!) I could also do some physio exercises with Vinnie, giving a bit of variety.

Dog with a medical cone lying on the grass in a pen
Vinnie in the garden

I'm also fortunate to have a large garden, so could spend time out there with Vinnie. He loves to be in the garden, and whilst he had to be restricted, it at least gave him a change of scene and made him feel like he'd done something! Again, it also gave me time to reinforce relationships with each dog seperately.

We've had a few years now of mostly eveness in terms of exercise needs and tolerance. There's been a few blips, but not for prolonged periods. Over the past eight months, I've reduced Vinnie's exercise as I could see that too many walks were causing him to struggle. This just meant that he didn't go out on every walk - I don't walk my dogs every day anyway, but he now goes out maybe three or four days instead of five or six. I've also switched to keeping him on a flexi lead for most of the walk, so that he doesn't over excert himself (you can read more about that here) However I can see that he is struggling a little more at times. I think an element of that is the heat, but I can also see that his body isn't as strong as it once was.

Dog on grass with a lead attached to harness
Vinnie on a solo walk

So I'm back to considering how to manage two dogs with very different exercise needs; I'm currently thinking that this will be continuing to limit the number of days that Vinnie goes out, but also being more mindful about the routes I choose.

I know for other people they have made great use of the dog strollers, allowing them to take their older dogs when they head out for longer walks. Maybe I will consider that further down the line, but it's not an option at the moment. This Facebook group has some excellent posts and reviews of the strollers available (and occasionally there are some for sale)

Dog on a bungee line
Ripley running

Ripley is at peak fitness. He is running with me two or three days a week, and is actually free running now. Of course I'm fortunate that I can use the underwater treadmill or pool to support his fitness, so if I take both dogs out together for a shorter walk I can balance that with some additional fitness work at the centre. I'm also increasing the general fitness and conditioning work for both dogs, as I am now studying to become a certified canine fitness trainer.

I'd love to hear how other people manage the differing exercise needs of their canine companions - you can comment on the Facebook page, or feel free to email if you need some help.

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