How to keep dogs healthy and happy when they cannot exercise

Animal behaviour experts have released a new book providing help and guidance for dog owners whose pets cannot exercise due to illness or surgery.

‘No walks? No worries! – Maintaining wellbeing in dogs on restricted exercise’, by Sian Ryan, from Developing Dogs, and Helen Zulch, from the University of Lincoln, UK, aims to help owners identify the needs of their dog and offer support in preparing their dog for a period of restricted exercise, such as when surgical interventions are planned.

It also assists owners in managing their dogs in the recovery stage post-surgery, during illness or in the longer term if the illness or injury means a permanent restriction in activity.

Until now little advice was available on keeping dogs healthy and happy while their usual exercise is limited. Owners are left to manage as best they can, which can be stressful for both owner and dog, and can lead to behavioural changes and problems in the animal.

The book, written by professionals in their field, offers ideas and tips for dog owners to provide mental stimulation and emotional support for their pets – as well as alternatives to physical exercise and guidance on specific skills.

Helen Zulch is a certified professional clinical animal behaviourist (CCAB) based in Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences where she undertakes research, lectures at undergraduate and postgraduate level and sees cases in the University of Lincoln Animal Behaviour Referral Clinic.

She said: “Over the years I have consulted with a number of owners of dogs that are struggling to come to terms with a restriction of their physical activity, or where these restrictions have led to the development of serious behaviour problems. I hope that this book will be of use to dog owners as well as the professionals assisting them and will ultimately improve these dogs’ quality of life.”

Sian has an MSc in Clinical Animal Behaviour and has many years’ experience as a dog trainer and behaviour counsellor. She has worked in the Behaviour Clinic at the University of Lincoln and as a researcher in dog behaviour.

She has her own training and education centre, Developing Dogs, where she runs classes, workshops and seminars for dog owners and trainers.

Sian said: “I have fostered dogs for several rescue organisations, including a 12-week old Sighthound puppy which had been abandoned at a veterinary surgery with a badly broken leg. This puppy – of typically high energy and in need of exercise and socialisation – required nine months of care and rehabilitation, and was the catalyst for writing this book.”

No walks? No worries! (2014) by Sian Ryan and Helen Zulch is published by Hubble & Hattie.