Your Dog’s Mental Health and Exercise

Your Dog’s Mental Health and Exercise

Dogs, like people, can suffer from various mental health issues. They can become depressed, and within this depressed state suffer from loss of appetite, loss of interest in normal activities, or weight loss. They may seem to mope around a lot and be distracted during your attempts for their attention. Dogs can suffer from aggression, which can also be a mental health issue. And, they can become timid or fearful. If your dog suffers any of these mental health issues, regular exercise may help him to snap out of it.

Consider your dog in a depressed state, perhaps because of the loss of a pet companion.  Engaging your dog in an exercise routine may help distract him from his feelings of loss and direct his attention to other sources.

Consider if your dog is timid or fearful.  If you take your dog for a walk regularly, he may learn to deal with fear issues more easily because of his exposure to varied outside stimulus.

If your dog is aggressive towards humans or other dogs, walking him may help to get him socialized to other animals. The exercise will also relieve some of his pent-up energy so that it isn’t directed at others in an aggressive manner.

Exercising your dog on a regular basis will also help a normal dog’s mental health. He will be more apt to learn new things because he is constantly exposed to new stimuli. His thinking and problem-solving processes will be in better working order.  He will learn more about the world around him and how to deal with unfamiliar situations.

For example, when taking your dog on one of his walks you come to a busy street corner. Instead of just marching ahead on through the intersection, you and your dog stop for oncoming cars.  After this happens a few times, your dog also learns to wait to cross the road until the way is clear. The exercise has increased his learning of how to handle the world outside his home environment.


And, as has been proven medically, exercise supplies oxygen to the brain. Walking, as is seen in humans, increased blood circulation, and oxygen and glucose levels that reaches the brain, helping them to “clear their head” and think better. Any movement and exercise increases the breathing and heart rates, so more blood flows to the brain which enhances energy production, as well as waste removal.  Studies have shown that exercise can help cerebral blood vessels grow, even in to some extent in middle-aged relatively sedentary animals.

Studies in humans have proved that walking regularly can significantly improve memory skills, and can also improve learning ability, concentration and abstract reasoning. This same logic applies to dogs, so in fact exercise can improve your dog’s ability to think, along with their learning capacity.

In other animal studies, more vigorous exercise like running showed that brain cell survival increased.  In a recent study done with mice, it was found that in sedentary mice, most newly born brain cells died. But when the mice were exercised, the numbers of newly formed brain cells increased, which in effect was thought to have made the mice ‘smarter’. 

All of this shows the positive effects that exercise can have on other animals and humans, which can also result in a better mental health benefit for your dog.

Always remember to keep your dog in optimal nutritional condition and keep his/her immune system strong.

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