Regular exercise is an important part of keeping your pet healthy and fit. Every dog, young and old, should stay active daily. Your dog’s breed, energy level, age, and experience are all components that help you decide how much exercise your dog needs or how intense it should be, so make sure not to over-do it with your pet, and make sure there is clean drinking water available at all times. Exercises can be both mental and physical, and dogs, especially younger and older ones, can greatly benefit from both.
It is important to exercise your dog beyond just walking. Walking is a great form of cardiovascular exercise and does give dogs stimulation to the outside world, however, it does not strengthen muscles. It is also helpful to keep you and your dog from getting bored by including other forms of exercises in your regimen. Here are some ideas for keeping your dog active and healthy through mental and physical exercises.
10 Ways to Keep Your Dog Active through Exercise
1. Play hide and seek with his treats, or even with you. You got it… hide some treats around the house and tell your dog to go find them. He will have to sniff them out and run around looking for them. Or teach him how to search for you instead. These are great physical and mental games for your dog since he has to use his brain and body to find the objects.
2. Feed your dog using a treat dispensing toy. This is a great activity for your dog to stimulate it’s mind and body and keep her occupied for several minutes, as well as a great way to her your dog to slow down if it is a fast eater. It is very unstimulating for a dog to gobble up its food in less than a minute that has been put down for him. Instead, let her work for her food and have fun while doing it. There are different levels of treat dispensing toys, so make sure to start with the beginner level if your dog has never done it, and you may also need to help her the first few times until she understands the game.
3. Enroll your pup (and yourself) in conditioning or agility classes. These are challenging, fun, human animal bonding activities that help keep you and your dog active, while stimulating their minds. They will learn new commands and how to maneuver through obstacles that provide good movements for their joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons.
4. Set up your own obstacle course. You can practice at home by creating a course for your dog to crawl through a low area, jump through a hula hoop, weave between stools, backup through a narrow space… or find whatever works. Motivate with small, healthy treats to let your pup understand what she needs to do, and provide tons of verbal praise to keep your pup interested. Make sure to start out slow and easy so as to set your dog up for success.
5. Play chase and fetch. If you have some space in your yard, take the ball or Frisbee out to throw around. If your dog is great at bringing it back, keep them going with a fun game of fetch… or even have them chase you from across the yard. This is a game that can be enjoyed indoors as well, especially with a smaller dog. Just be careful if indoors, that the game is played on non-skid surfaces so as to avoid your dog slipping.
6. Play tug-of-war. This game has them pulling and using their muscles and jaws to keep them in place and hanging on to that toy! This is an excellent owner-dog bonding game and works every muscle in the dog’s body. If your dog has trouble giving up the toy have treats ready to train your dog to drop the toy and get a little healthy treat for doing so.
7. Have your dog run back and forth between two or more people. If you’ve already gotten your exercise in, this is a great way to still let your dog get his or hers. Grab your spouse, a friend, or your kids and make this a fun exercise for your dog. Each person takes a turn calling her name to have her run to them. Award her each time with a lot of praise or even a small treat sometimes if that helps motivate her in the game. This is an excellent way to also build your dog’s recall when you call her.
8. Run your dog up and down stairs or hills. You can do this with two people calling your dog back and forth or just throw the toy down or up the stairs/hills for them to fetch and run back up to give it to you. It could be great exercise for you both. If this is done outside on an incline, keep a leash on your pup if you are concerned about it not coming back to you right away.
9. Take your dog for a swim. If your dog is a fan of water this is a great way to give him some exercise and burn some energy while staying cool. If you are first introducing your pet to water, you may want to use a life vest to give your dog more confidence while in an environment that could be a little intimidating at first. Use a lot of praise and treats if necessary. Many dogs can learn to enjoy the water with positive introductions.
10. Teach your dog new tricks and commands. Dogs love to learn, and they love to perform for their owner’s affection and attention. It is very stimulating and rewarding for them to interact positively with their owners. If your dog does not know sit and down, start with those basic commands. There are so many fun tricks you can teach your dog to do after they learn the basics: shake, rollover, give high 5, crawl, sit up and beg, etc.
Keep it fun and safe for everyone. If you find you or your pet is frustrated or not enjoying an activity, pick another or return back to that activity some other time. Changing up your exercise routines and trying new things doesn’t give you or your pet much of a chance to get bored and will keep your pet happier and healthier. A body in motion stays in motion!
For more information about Dog Conditioning and keeping your dog healty and strong, visit PUP’s Conditioning Page or contact me, Shari Sprague, MPT, CCRT.
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