Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Scholarly Examination of Exercise by Mango Momma

This post contains many words and NO pictures (OK, maybe one or two at the end from the archives).

Mango's latest diagnosis of arthritis and partial ACL tears has made getting him proper exercise paramount. Subsequently, I embarked on a mission of tracking his activities with great care with an eye to finding ways to improve his regime.

This post is an analysis of the collected data along with some goal setting. Read it or not.

PART I - The Data

First step was to obtain a baseline of data to understand what a "normal" week entailed. I did my best to carry on as usual and not "show off" for my spreadsheet.

I only kept track of deliberate activities so I did not include our daily snuggle sessions, wrestling (i.e. floor fun) with Dexter, or the frequent free yard time activities with the Master. Sadly, Mango is no longer prone to full out bitey face funballs with Dexter, but does engage in recumbent bitey face or occasional "high speed" chases of Dexter with a stuffie.

Brief plea for sympathy - the only activity that I can do with the dogs together is tennis ball. Walking them together is out of the question until such time as I sprout three additional arms as well as an ability to pivot my head 360 degrees.

Here are the baseline week results;


8 walks (3 off property and 5 yard walks - more about that later) totaling 2.85 miles (0.57 mi/walk average)

5 tennis ball sessions totaling 35 retrieves

1 passive stretching session

1 therapy disk session (approx. 10 minutes)

0 massage


6 walks totaling 8.5 miles (1.4 mi/walk average)

5 tennis ball sessions totaling 102 retrieves

1 daycare day

1 therapy peanut session (approx. 10 minutes)

Part II - The Analysis

My initial overall impression was that despite feeling as if I am always doing stuff with the dogs, I am actually doing less than I thought. Thus the beauty of using numerical analysis. So let's see...


What are Yard Walks? Those are loops on leash around our sizable back yard. Think of it like doggie treadmill. It is much easier to get steady, constant motion this way since off property walks can be fraught with peemail stops, pull overs to avoid oncoming traffic, and other distractions.

Mango's typical retrieves are about 20-30 feet. I do try and throw up hill whenever possible to force him to use his back end. He usually executes all but the first couple at a trot (not a gallop) and can take an alarming amount of time to savor the intermittent reward he gets for a job well done.

Given that Mango is not supposed to be spinning, dog dance practice is out for the time being. He gets very excited during dancing and will spin as a default behavior.

I knew I wasn't doing his stretches enough, but realized I am almost not doing them at all. Mango does get grouchy when I try to stretch him so I need to confirm I am doing it properly. And NO MASSAGE! Terrible.


Drat! I was sure I was walking him more frequently and further.

Dexter is fairly easy to tire out. Unlike Mango, his retrieves are at a full speed run across the length of the yard. He attacks his therapy peanut sessions with alarming vigor. So while there is room for improvement, he is getting flat lab worn out on most days (and daycare really does him in).

Note that Dexter does get some bonus exercise during Mango's Yard Walks. Since there are treats involved, Dex tends to run mental fits cracker dog around the yard while Mango is plodding along.

Part III - Goals

My personal rules for goal setting;

  1. Keep it small, keep it simple, do no harm. Sure, I have a list of things I should be doing to improve my life and that of the dogs; exercise, eat right, more training, etc. but for me, I need to find small, incremental changes in one area and do no harm in everything else.
  2. Be honest. I could say "I am going to get in the mastiff mobile every morning and drive someplace to walk Mango." But I won't and the stress of gearing up to do that will likely cause rule #1 of do no harm to be violated (besides, every clear field I have tried always winds up sporting loose off leash cracker dogs sooner or later).
  3. Use visualization to make dog activities positive - nobody benefits when I force myself to do a dog activity when my brain is consumed with "woe is me." I have more success if I take a few minutes to visualize myself doing the activity, enjoying it, and having a positive outcome. This is particularly true of off property walks with Mango which require me to be on full alert at all times.
With that in mind, I have only ONE goal for the upcoming week...


And here is how I can do that....

For Dexter, just walk faster. If I walk fast enough to keep the leash loose with Dexter trotting, we can cover 2 miles in about 40 minutes. This allows for brisk walking, with a few potty and sniff breaks. For any math impaired folks, that would be an average walking speed of 4 miles / hr. when in motion (yes, I timed our potty / sniff breaks). I did a test run yesterday with great success (I used visualization to see myself walking the entire route rather than just setting off randomly).

For Mango, more off property walks which tend to be longer. I am also interspersing short jogs into his yard walks which means we can do more loops in the same amount of time. I will continue to wait for daylight for off property walks (remember, avoid additional stress) and carry as many hot dogs as it takes to keep him focused (working on walks, not some noble goal of better leash manners).

Note to self - any walk is greater than NO walk! This is particularly important for me to remember with Mango. Five minutes is more than zero. One yard loop is more than none.

Part IV - The Challenge

The number one challenge for me is getting Mango moving in meaningful ways. 10 minutes on the exercise peanut leaves Dexter all curly tongue panting worn out, but Mango is like me in that he would prefer not to move at all. Indoor activities for him are additionally limited by his gigantic size and clumsy nature making it hard to find enough space for him to move without taking a tumble and / or knocking over furniture.

Walking Mango off property in the dark is out of the question. He is a spooky bastard and having joggers and whatnot bear down upon us out of the darkness would send him over the edge. That combined, with the encroaching winter is really making me scratch my head for after work exercise for him.

Want to play along? My challenge to YOU, dear readers, is to keep a log for yourself for a week and determine what incremental changes you can make to improve the quality of life for your dogs and, no doubt, for yourself as well.

Remember the first week is to measure your default behavior. Be honest because that is the regime you will fall back in to if things get too ambitious or overwhelming.

I determined a short list of deliberate activities and a measurement system. I plotted the distance of Dexter's walks using this site. For Mango, I did a couple of measured walks and then estimated yard loops based on duration (Mango averages the glacial speed of about 2.5 mi / hr).

If your dogs wrestle or bitey face, lucky you. Count that as exercise for them. Just time a few sessions and then see how tired they are afterwards.

I will be back next week with a progress report. Mango goes to PT on Saturday and I am hoping to pick up some pointers on how to keep him moving.

Part V - Gratuitous Cute Dog Photos

If you're still with me, here's your reward for your patience.


Mango Momma

P.S. As an added bonus, I AM working harder on Dexter's propensity to be a bitey shark when taking his cookies. It has been challenging. If he does a behavior and I click / treat, I want him to get his reward and if I pause to make him be less shark-like then I have missed the mark on the behavior. Sigh. So I'm trying to practice "the gentleman lab" independently.


Reilly / Denny Cowspotdogs said...

One word - treadmill! Reilly loves his and has been doing it since he was six months old - he does 2 miles a day on it and a nice steady jog.

Bouncing Bertie said...

Interesting post. It must be a challenge to manage two dogs with different exercise requirements.
It takes a long walk to tire Bertie out! When we went to Glen Tanar with Jake and his owner a couple of weeks ago, the humans walked ten miles and the dogs, chasing each other around off lead all through the forest, much much more. The wee fellow was a bit tired that evening but had sprung back to life the following morning, ready for his walk to the park. The normal weekday routine here is a one mile walk round the park in the morning, and a two mile walk late afternoon. Both walks usually involve some off lead dashing about. At weekends we have an hour of agility class (which does seem to tire Bertie mentally) and at least one five mile plus walk, often up a hill or over rough ground etc. So that's at least 25 miles per week. One the negative side we only have a small garden and Bertie's access to it is restricted as he always barks when left outside alone. My house has three floors so dashing up and down stairs also consumes calories for both of us, and Bertie quite often does indoor zoomies, running round in circles leaping on and off the couch.
Reading all this, I am beginning to realise why he is a skinny little shrimp and I am also not about to contribute to the obesity crisis....
Occasionally, as today (50 mph winds) our routine is disrupted by Scotland's intermittently dreadful weather.

Mango said...

I knew treadmills would come up, so adding a comment here. I am hopeful that over the course of several visits Mango will learn to use either the land or (even better) underwater treadmill at PT. If he demonstrates an affinity for that, I might consider one for the estate (even though it would have to consume most of the scant floor space in the dog cave).

Long term, might get one to put in the basement for Dexter.

Mango Momma

Anonymous said...

First, Thank you for the carrot! :D Nommers ;)

Mango Momma you are a very good doggy Momma and I know you already know that! ;) Paws up to you for focusing on the 'extra mile' ;) I will be there is spirit with yaz (whilst lazing on my couch) Hardy Har Har

Waggin at ya,

K9 Katastrophie said...

Hi Mango Momma, You certainly are doing a great job! What with the cold weather it is hard for me to get Ruthie to go outside to potty much less walk...

Gus said...

And I bet you have this all on a spreadsheet, right?

You are a great Dog Momma, and I salute you. In your honor, I vow to return to our Mary Munford walks, which have been dormant for a while. Yes, we cover the same distance in the neighborhood, but "the CAR Mom, the CAR!" seems to be a part of the routine they are missing.

Thanks for the inspiration.

Declan said...

Hmmm those boys are very different aren't they so that must be quite hard to manage. Although I'm pretty fit it doesn't take a lot to wear me out, and I HATE the wind & the rain - Mum has to drag me out! We read recently about Hiking Hounds going on a 9 mile walk and now Mum is wondering if we should really be doing more.. Deccy x

Maggie and Mitch said...

We think we can see past your tonsils and all the way to the tip of your tail, Mango! Carrots are so yummy!
Your momma sure does love you!

Love ya lots
Maggie and Mitch

Priscilla said...

You're doing a great job, Mango Momma!

We know things won't be easy, but with your care and love, the two boys will do well.

We did our homemade hydro-therapy for Mika and it worked. We hope you enjoy the extra-miles walking with your boys.

ArtemisiaFSS said...

Fenris' Mom here, I can't imagine trying to walk two dogs at the same time. I have seen other people do it but unless Fenris morphs into a dog that never pulls it won't happen here. Which is why Fenris will most likely always be a only dog. We shall try to play along, I think he misses his beach walks.

I have a feeling lately I would get a :>( if I was graded.

Wild Dingo said...

YOu are the man DOH! (bowing)... that's a lot of dog you got there between pea and rh. and a lot of work. sigh.

still thinking of treadmill for Juno myself. i would love to do that for her and for loki.

and now, i will NOT be taking your challenge. no way. no how. i don't want to know how bad i'm doing! :)

HoundDogMom said...

With the weather changing in Illinois I just have to remind myself that just cuz I am a big baby in the cold the fur-kids still need excercise, not just open the back door and say have a ball. Having the bassets I have found since we lost Cleo they just don't have the ambitions they had before. They sleep a lot more so that is my clue I must do more activities to stimulate them. We look foward to your progress reports. Sniffs, The HoundDogs

Amber DaWeenie said...

OK....where be my carrot???? BOL

Me wishes we could go on "off property" walks butt we lives in a country area where most of da property is unfenced and da BIG HUGE MEAN MONSTER DOGS have free run of everyting in dere path. Some of dem would probably eat me. So mee sticks to me 1 1/2-acre FENCED backyard for me exercise! :o)

Sarge said...

Hey Mango Mom!
Wow, you're doing such a great job helping out Mango. I know this is a challenge. Winter weather and darkness cause me to slack off with Sarge. :( I really think the treadmill will be the savior for you. It will be safe, dry, warm, steady, always available, well-lit. Might be the only solution. Sarge and I are sending healing vibes to Mango and we'll be tuning in for the progress.
Sarge's Mom

SissySees said...

Takes me back to the senior Fred and Mugsy days. I don't have to tell you that 67 lb. basset with a bad back can't race walk with a larger JRT with no physical limitations.

I'm going to ponder your challenge and see if I can morph it a bit to fit my needs. We get plenty of cardio, but walks are also socialization and training opportunities, which is where my girls (and of course, their slave) need the most work...

Sarah said...

I love spreadsheets! We started one about a month ago to keep tracking of the walks and training sessions. Just documenting everything for a couple weeks allowed us to see where the holes were and we've been great about stepping up our game to give the dogs more exercise. Glad to see I'm not the only one who uses spreadsheets to become a better doggie mama!

Sue said...

Multiply all that by five and you have my day. I've been working with my boys on the grabby behavior when dispensing treats. Now I just raise a finger and it's their reminder to be gentle. Good luck.

Bouncing Bertie said...

Your blog post got me thinking again on our afternoon walk, and it occurred to me that where I need to improve is to spend more time playing with Bertie, or teaching him little tricks. We walk a lot because that's what comes naturally to me, but I think he would benefit from more mental stimulation. So, a new goal for us - an extra half hour per week (i.e. a few minutes per day) of playtime.
Thanks MangoMomma (the best Momma a dog could have)!

Cheers, Gail.

Corbin said...

Wow, reading that made me realize how unorganized my momma is!

Frankie Furter said...

Hummmmmmmmmmm have you thought of one of those Weight Shirt thingys?? Weights are supposed to increase the Work Load.. while decreasing the Distance needed to reach the goal.

I know that they would need to be distributed very carefully to avoid stress on joints, but something to consider.. for BOTH boys.

I could send Frankie and he could Ride on the Big Guys... like a mini jockey.

Maggie Mae said...

Mango Momma,

You are amazing! Mango and Dexter sure are lucky pups to have you watching over them. :)

Maggie Mae and Max's mom

Nadine, Chewy and Lilibell said...

Hi guys, you don't know us, butt we have a mutual friend in Blogville. This friend has had a rough year, and we are hoping to get everyone together to help make her Christmas a special one (We don't want to name a name right now, we are trying to keep this a surprise for her.) If you would like to help out, would you please peemail our Mom at shoequeen40(at)msn(dot)com so she can tell you what we are trying to plan?

Waggles & Chi kisses, Chewy & Lilibell

Marjie said...

It would be impossible to walk both Mango and Dexter at the same time, since labs and mastiffs are so different. You might not be spending much time with them individually, relatively speaking, but you are spending a lot of time on the whole. At least you can play a good vigorous game of tennis ball without wearing yourself out!

The Boston Lady said...

Mango Momma, first of all, you rock! You are so on top of things and I love your complete analysis of the whole situation. I hope Mango will be able to adjust to a treadmill eventually - I know what a time saver that would be for you - and the Pea could use it too. You are an awesome Momma to your dogs. Ann TBL

Berts Blog said...

I've never seen a human who put so much thought into the daily plans of their companion. You deserve a huge paws up from all us dogs.

I know you have to think about every aspet of what you are doing with button nose, but will you besure that you get pleasure out of the walks too.

We four legged ones really like it most with both parties win.....

YOur the coolest

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

Good for you!!! I'm very impressed by your dedication and your thoughtfulness in setting small achievable goals. It is so hard, especially this time of year to get outside and exercise the dogs. I will try and set some goals for myself so I can participate with you.

rottrover said...

Very interesting post... I like the idea of keeping a spread sheet for a week - sort of like writing down everything you eat before starting a diet. We take good long walks 4 days a week, and thankfully I can walk Bart and Ruby together (never Gizmo and Bart). Three days a week I work very long hours, so those days are my challenge. I like Bertie's idea of spending time learning a trick or doing something mental.

When the boys were younger they used to have a backpack. As Frankie said, adding a little weight in the backpack helped drain energy and a 40 minute walk became a 20-25 minute walk. Which was great because I walked them separately. They also got pretty
buff. It might be helpful for Dexter, but probably not for Mango because of his leggy issue.

Hopefully Mango will try out the hydro-treadmill. That would be awesome! Keep us posted.

STELLA and RORY from Down Under said...

Blimey Mango Momma. If we do a survey on what is done with the dogs during the week, we might have to repremand ourselves! I suppose we are lucky in that when Tyler visits we have two cracker dogs in Stella and Tyler running around with Rory chugging along behind.

We do walk everyday ourselves, Stella has come a few times, while Rory will have to wait till he is a little older.

Is there a friend you could visit that gets along with Mango, where you could have Mango play in a different yard (dog free of course). He might use more energy exploring different smells and having a general run-around in their yard for half an hour.

The saddle bags sound like a good idea although sounds like Dexter is getting worn out already.

Setting smalls goals is definitely the way to go. Can the Master do a 15 min play/workout with Mango in the backyard and then you do the same later in the day?

Anyhoo, take it easy on yourself Mango Momma. Sounds like you work full time and there is only so much time in a day. I know you want what's best for your dogs but you can only do so much with the time you have.

Take care all. No worries, and love, Carol

Jed and Abby in MerryLand said...

Boy, are you organized! We also bow in admiration. Not sure what you're going to have to do to motivate the RH to walk on a treadmill, but it does sound like a good wintertime activity. Sure don't want to risk his falling on ice or any slick surfaces, especially in the dark.

When mama was MUCH younger, she used to exercise Danes by riding a bike and having them trot along beside her. Not sure Mango could/would do that, especially with the leggie problems. Dex could manage it. That way you can get in 5 - 7 miles in less than 1/2 hour.

Maybe Dex could have some playdates with nephew Oliver on weekends, like while Mango is at therapy. That should give them both a good workout.

We will be eagerly following your progress from the comfort of our occupied couches. We're about the same size and age, so we play a lot of bitey face and we also run in and out of the doggie door and do circuits of the fenceline 87 times a day.

Oh - mama used a technique similar to the PWD's mama to stop the snapping for treats. She'd yank the treat back and say "easy" and then offer another chance at the treat, but we only actually get a treat if we don't snap. We never snap anymore.

Jed & Abby

Two French Bulldogs said...

your administartive assistant rocks. Looks like
Pee Wee wins
Benny & Lily

Baby Rocket Dog and Hootie said...

MangoMama, you're such an attentive lady to your poochie charges! We love you and want you to come take care of us. We like that you are keeping such a diary. Smart.
Smooches from pooches,
BabyRD & Hootie

Anonymous said...

Wow that sure was a lot of thinkin work and exercise too.

So Mango Mom, did you get a carrot too?

woos, Tessa

Au and Target said...

It's fascinating to see how you're keeping score; really love it! isn't' there a neighbour who'd also love to play ball with the dogs for 20 minutes every few days or so? I know I'd volunteer in a flash if we lived close by! Sadly our neighbourhood dogs are tiny and they get enough exercise already.

Shane Kent Louis said...

Your so intelligent to pass that exam! keep it up mango!

It's all About Pet Fences | Dog Fence

♥♥♥ The OP Pack ♥♥♥ said...

Well, if the Momster could manage to create a spreadsheet, these days it would be totally blank. We are on our own for exercise these days. You are doing fine, sometimes there just isn't enough time in the day or night.

Woos ~ Phantom, Thunder, Ciara, and Lightning

Leslie said...

Wow - that's an impressive analysis of what's going on with your pups. You're doing an amazing job with them and you're a great dog-mom.

Once we get past the holidays, I think I'm going to have to accept your challenge and see how (badly) we're doing with Bella. Her recent agility classes help some but since we spend most of our time just trying to get her to not be afraid of the obstacles, she's not yet getting the exercise there that I'd hoped for either...

Good luck! And happy holidays!

3 doxies said...

Oh god my head hurts now. I gotts say though, you is doin' a fab job with da routines though and making sure Mango is getting what hea needs with his latest diagnosis. I hope he be doin' betters now. We was gone away so I didn't know he was goin' through dis. I'm sorry.
I commend you with all you is doin'!
Mum tried us on treadmills and it wasn't purty.


Fiona, as typed by Dr. Liz said...

If I actually walked my dogs any more, I might be able to keep track! ;-) Seriously, during the week (except for ski mornings), the husband walks the dogs in the morning, then the dog walker walks them at noon (yes, really, a dog walker...) and then either the husband and I, or just the husband walks them again about 4pm. All that aside, I know you've posted on the exercise peanut thingy before, but would you mind sending me a link to where you got it/how to use it. I'd like to have something that I can use to attempt to wear out Abby on days when even all her walks and bitey face don't wear her out.

Finally, I'm impressed with the log - much like a diet log that forces you to say, "Wow, I nibble on a lot of stuff during the day" (or maybe that's just me), this gives you a real sense of what the dogs do. But as you said, 1 walk in the yard is better than none, and some tennis ball time is always better than none. So, just pat yourself on the back for doing SOMETHING with them, and then figuring out how you can exercise them without sucking up all your copious free time.

-Dr. Liz (the girls are sickly and have asked me to sneak in a couple of bloggie views while I'm at work...)

Fiona, as typed by Dr. Liz said...

BTW, I'd kill to have a fenced yard like yours. Our HOA doesn't allow 'visible fences'... (WTF? Yeah, so that would be why we have a lot of loose dogs in the neighborhood.... Good thinking there, HOA...) A mostly flat yard would be kinda bitchin', too. ;-D

-Dr. Liz (who, apparently, is not motivated to pull data out of a poorly designed database, into excel, and then analyze it in Access... *knocks head into wall*)

Wyatt said...

Go Go Mango Man!! Starting a New Years resolution in December....good dog!
We will do the Idita-Walk again this winter, because it's good to have motivation to get out when it's cold and wet. Keeping track of our minutes walking, keeps us(mom) motivated :)

Wyatt and Stanzie


As Gail said - an extremely interesting and insightful post! Thank you! Your activities - yes, even the baseline stuff - put me to shame at the moment. My lot have had to contend with extra sleep over the past few months (given what I've been involved in). Poor pooches (Mine at least).
I do admire you for your resolve and goal setting. You are right - where there is vision, there is purpose.
Big hugs to the RH, to Dexter and especially to you.

tula said...

oh mango momma. sometimes you just have to go on autopilot and turn your brain off. I always think of our walkies in the big picture.. 20 minutes or 5 minutes or whatever..isn't alot of time and it's good exercise for me too. After awhile you stop putting yourself on alert and you do what your training tells you to do.. for the most part, it is what it is. TM still goes nutzo when she sees a dog walking.. so we do a u-turn. It's not pretty but.. There are so many nutty, reactive dogs out there-- we blend in:) (as well as owners :) )

at the end of the day, do what works for you.

FAD. tm

Khyra And Sometimes Her Mom said...

I'm expekhting SPC charts and graphs...

Just sayin'

PeeEssWoo: And degrees of khonfidence!

KB said...

Wow, great idea to quantify! I think that my log would show lots of physical activity (but we'll have to see) but not enough brain activity. I have resolved to start trying to teach my dogs a new trick every week or so after the holiday frenzy is over...

It's too bad that you can't exercise the two together... that would be so much more efficient but I understand why you can't.

achieve1dream said...

Um well that's easy . . . in the winter all of mine are a big fat zero!! I'm lazy in the winter. I get cold easily and if I'm cold I am unmotivated to move more than a foot from my electric blanket LOL! So beating my current routine shouldn't be too hard. If I were doing this in the summer if would be more difficult because I'm naturally a lot more active in the summer. This post does motivate me to try harder though so I'm going to get back into some exercise routine for me and the dogs. I miss working out. It made me feel so much better.