Fun Tips to Get Moving with Your Dog
According to a nationwide survey of pet owners, about 85 million American families own dogs. Sadly, many vets report that the majority of dogs are overweight, putting them at all kinds of health risks, including arthritis, heart and breathing conditions, and ACL tears.
Exercise is just as helpful for your pup as it is for you, and fortunately, most dogs need very little prompting to get outside and play. You’ll likely find that your dog is an ideal exercise buddy; once you’ve established a routine, they’ll likely “hound” you to continue every day.
If your dog isn’t accustomed to much exercise, start by talking to your vet. Just like their humans, dogs sometimes need to ease into activity to avoid risk of injury or over-exhaustion.
Your vet will likely suggest that you start with regular walks. If you live in a walkable community, you can begin with a stroll around your neighborhood. Always keep your dog on a leash outside of your yard, and if they are difficult to handle, consider a harness. If your neighborhood lacks sidewalks or safe places for a stroll, consider a nearby park or trail. Many parks welcome pups as long as they’re on a leash, but always check before you go.
If you think your dog wants or needs a little more, consider picking up the pace a bit. Most young, healthy dogs (and some older ones) love a jog, and will happily train alongside you. You may even discover that your dog has the heart of a champion and pushes you to greater distances.
Of course, you can also exercise with your pup in your own yard, or even in your living room with a simple game of fetch. While some dogs will naturally fetch and return, others need a little training. Once they get the hang of it, fetch is a game simple enough that even young children can play.
Hide and seek is another fun indoor/outdoor game that dogs love as much as kids. Find your dog’s favorite toy, then put your pet in another room while you hide it. You may want to stomp around several different areas to throw him or her off track. As your dog improves, hide the toy further and further away in increasingly difficult places. Invite children to help hide the toy and “race” the dog to find it.
Tag is also a simple and easy game that kids and adults will enjoy as much as your dog does. You’ll need a human partner and both of you will start with a handful of healthy treats (hint: most dogs love baby carrots, blueberries, and apple slices.) Stand on opposite sides of the room and start by taking turns calling your dog and rewarding him or her when they come. Then move further and further away as you call. As your dog gets the hang of it, you’ll likely find that you no longer need a treat to get them to come. Increase the pace for both of you by calling your pup, then running away and even “hiding.” This fun game works just as well inside or out and can easily involve the whole family.
Walking, jogging and playing games all have added benefits beyond weight loss. Many owners of hyper or “high-strung” dogs find that regular exercise results in calmer, happier, and better behaved pets. Exercising with a dog is also a great way to relieve your own stress and help you and your dog relax, connect, and enjoy one another.