Dogs of all sizes, breeds, and ages need exercise, just as we humans do, to stay fit and healthy. Often, however, our canine family members don’t get enough exercise, even if they have a yard to play in or get daily walks. If you’re on the go traveling with your pet, or you’ve recently relocated to another country, finding exercise opportunities in a new place can be more challenging. Even so, there are exercises your pup can do anywhere. And that’s a good thing, because dogs that don’t get enough physical exercise can easily and quickly become overweight, even obese. They can also grow bored, from lack of movement and/or lack of mental stimulation. When that happens, your dear girl will think up things to do on her own – and chances are good you won’t like her choices.
Better to give her exercise options that are healthy in all ways.
PetMD reminds us that it’s always smart to check in with your vet before starting a new exercise regimen for your dog. Happily, even if your girl has limitations related to her age or a chronic health condition, there are plenty of ways to help her get the exercise she needs, appropriately.
Here are 4 easy ways you can pet-ercise your dog:
1. Walk more, and walk longer
You can walk anywhere, whether you’re in downtown Boston, out on the moors of Scotland, or living in Sydney, Australia. Wherever you are, choose a distance and effort level that will raise your pup’s heart rate a bit (yours, too!), but not too strenuous. She’ll start to pant when she’s feeling her exercise. If she’s elderly, let her take things slower and stop more often for a restful sniff.
Vary your route. When you do your daily walk, don’t follow the same route all the time. Giving your dog new things to see and sniff – even a new texture underfoot such as trail versus sidewalk – keeps her mind engaged as well as her muscles. Of course, if you’re in a new location, you have it made since it’s all fresh and hyper-interesting.
2. Pick up the pace
If your dog is able, go for a run with her instead of walking or hiking. Or teach her to run alongside as you ride your bike. Read up on biking with your dog before you try it, or talk to a trainer, because there’s a learning curve here, for both you and your pooch. It won’t be fun if you crash. (Who knows, once she gets the hang of safe biking, the two of you might want to take a fun biking vacation to France. Or anywhere.)
Veterinarians caution against long stretches of jogging or running for dogs. Canines don’t naturally run for long periods of time, whether they’re working sheep or playing around. They run in relatively short spurts, then slow down or stop for a while. Forcing your girl to push beyond her natural limits can strain and injure her joints, ligaments, and bones. If she’s still a puppy, she’s at even greater risk, because her bones are still growing.
3. At home fun
Fetch, tug, and Frisbee are all games that most dogs love, and playing them is great exercise. You can expand on that concept by taking your furry friend to formal agility training classes, but you can also mimic some of that fun right in your own yard. For example, dogs love to jump. (Yes, you’ve taught her – finally – not to jump up on people and things, but we’re talking about the acceptable kind.)
Start low, with a stick or broom handle laid over a couple of low supports, and encourage your pup to leap over. Gradually raise the bar to make it more challenging, but don’t make her jump over anything higher than her elbows.
4. Brain food
Instead of a simple game of fetch, organize a “hide and seek” game where your pooch has to find the ball. You can do this indoors as well as outside. In the house (or your hotel room), you can also give her puzzle toys that make her use her brain instead of simply gnawing on a chew-toy. You know what else stimulates your dog’s brain? Obedience and trick training! Now we’re talking. Woof!
No matter what exercises you and your dog enjoy most, the most important thing is to get up and do them. There’s no better way to interact with her one-on-one, and that builds your bond with her as well as her muscle tone and brain power.