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Safe ways to exercise flat-faced pups

We all love those flat-nosed dogs--like French Bulldogs or Pugs--with their cute wrinkles and smooshy faces. For the most part, these pups are just like any other. However, owners of short-headed breeds (also referred to as Brachycephalic breeds) often times have a hard time with exercise and stimulation. They often have short bursts of energy then need longer bursts of rest. It’s harder for them to breathe because their nose is flatter and therefore, it’s harder to exercise. 

Despite their challenges, here are some ideas to get your flat-faced dogs some physical and mental stimulation:

  • Be cautious of the weather before going outside. Most of these breeds cannot handle extreme weather in any variety. If it’s freezing or incredibly hot out, take a quick walk around the block and then go inside, or let them play in the yard for no more than 5 minutes.
  • Invest in dog puzzle toys. If the weather isn’t on your side, or you can’t get your dog outside for exercise, I recommend a puzzle toy for them to get some of their energy out. There are many varieties, but my favorites are the Kong Wobbler and the Doggy Tornado. They’re great for mental stimulation, which is a great alternative to physical exercise. They also help to slow down eating, which is good for these guys. (I feed my dogs’ meals in these toys.)
  • A short walk is good. Be sure to look out for signs of discomfort, like heavy panting or sweat marks coming from their paws. If they seem comfortable, keep walking and turn around when you notice signs of discomfort or exhaustion. You want to be careful to not push them too hard. Keep them comfortable and breathing properly. After all, you do have to walk home, and these guys have less tolerance for long distances. 
  • Try some one-on-one doggy play dates. If you have a friend or neighbor with a friendly dog and your pup likes to play, then give it a try. Be sure to have the dogs take frequent breaks--every few minutes or so—with the entire play date lasting about 20-30 minutes. Short bursts are the key to happy, healthy flat-faced dog play.

Remember to have fun with your pup and make all your experiences as positive as possible. If you aren’t in the mood to play, your dog probably isn’t either. There is nothing wrong some good ol’ couch time. You have to do what works best for you and your lifestyle. Your dog will adjust to your needs and wants, which is the great thing about dogs.

Happy training!


Jaime Migdal, CPDT KA, is the founder and CEO of Fetchfind, a talent recruitment and services organization dedicated to the pet industry.

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