Regular physical activity is important to keep your bones, muscles, joints and immune system functioning at their best. Just as staying active, healthy and fit is vital for your own health, exercise is just as crucial for your four-legged friends. Dogs, no matter their breed, need to maintain a particular level of fitness to ensure a long and healthy life.
Though your dog needs regular exercise, as a dog owner, taking your canine companion out for a routine walk day after day can grow tiresome. Read on for several alternative ideas to help you ensure your dog gets the exercise he or she needs while keeping things fresh and interesting for the both of you.
Outdoor Exercise Ideas for You and Your Dog
Dogs thrive in an outdoor environment and there is no shortage of activities available for you and your pets when it comes to exercise in the great outdoors. From researching “how much does an inground pool cost” to “local off leash areas,” you can find an enjoyable outdoor exercise activity for every dog and his or her owner that will suit just about any lifestyle–even if you don’t consider yourself to be the outdoorsy type.
A classic for a reason, this game brings out the inner retriever in any canine. Fetch is a great option for dogs who need a great deal of high-intensity exercise, as they can run great distances and at great speeds, as they chase whatever ball or toy is being thrown. This is also a great solution for dog owners who are running low on energy, have mobility restraints or can’t take their dog out for a lengthy jog for various reasons. To maximize the fitness impact of this game, consider investing in a ball-chucking tool to send your pup on a longer run.
Dogs are natural hunters by nature, and your pet will love to play a game of chase with you at your local dog park, in your backyard or in any open, dog-friendly area wherever you are in the world. To play this game, first establish a signal in order to get your dog’s attention. After he or she begins to run over to you, run or jump away to spark your dog’s hunting instincts. Chase is best played when you have a reward prepared, whether a treat or another form of positive reinforcement, to encourage safe and healthy play. Always play this game in an enclosed area, and never encourage your dog to exhibit aggressive behaviors toward you, another person or another animal, no matter how playful or harmless it may seem.
To engage your dog’s mind and body at the same time, it’s a good idea to set up a simple obstacle course that will allow your pet to jump, dodge, run and play all within a short period of time. You don’t have to obtain any fancy equipment in order to set up an obstacle course. Simply lead your dog through natural obstacles, such as park benches and tree stumps, or use basic equipment such as a wooden stool or a hula hoop to create your own opportunities to get your dog to weave, leap and bound around your yard.
Many dogs are natural swimmers, which makes this activity an ideal choice for outdoor exercise. Many local pools and swimming holes have dog-friendly areas where your pup can take a dip and practice their paddling skills. To go the extra mile, consider taking your pet to a dog-friendly lake, pond, creek or recreation area where he or she can socialize with other dogs while going for a swim.
Similar to the game of fetch, a frisbee is thrown at a long distance and chased after by your dog. Frisbees differ slightly in that they glide along the open air rather than drop and fall as a ball might. This encourages your dog to jump up to fetch the disk instead of grabbing it off the ground, which means more effort is exerted throughout the process than a regular game of fetch.
Runs and Walks
A classic standby, it’s hard to go wrong with a simple walk, jog or run around the neighborhood with your dog on a leash. To make it more exciting, switch up the routine by walking for one block and running for another. Alternatively, you can load your canine pal into the car and head out for a walk in new scenery in an undiscovered part of town or a dog-friendly region where your pet is more likely to flex its social skills while out for a stroll.
Ways to Exercise with Your Dog While Indoors
Though the outdoors provide plenty of room for your dog to run and play, it isn’t always possible to make it outside for exercise. Whether you’ve returned home from work well after the sun has gone down or the weather outside is too wet or muggy for outdoor activity, these indoor options can come through when your dog needs to burn off energy through his or her daily exercise and you’re stuck inside for the day.
Tug-of-War with dog friends
While dogs are generally obedient and good-natured, they can get fairly competitive when presented with a challenge. Tug-of-war is an excellent game you can set up for your dog to play with another dog friend, even in a surprisingly small indoor space, that will get him or her moving around enough to get tired out. Rope toys make great tools to play this game, but you can also grab an old towel or another lengthy toy that will allow one dog to grip one end while the other dog grips the other. Make sure the dogs are equally yoked so that each gets to win from time to time to keep him or her interested and engaged in the game.
When your schedule or lifestyle doesn’t permit frequent outdoor activities, it’s a good idea to invest in a long-term solution for your dog’s fitness. Dog treadmills don’t take up too much space indoors, and many of them can be packed or rolled away into a closet when not in use. These exercise machines work just like typical treadmills do, but have additional safety features to ensure your dog gets a good workout without risking severe injury, exhaustion or other bodily harm.
Interactive Dog Toys
Play, even with seemingly small toys, can get your dog’s muscles moving and heart pumping when the toys require significant involvement on your dog’s part. Some interactive dog toys, such as triangle-shaped soft toys, nose-play mazes, food puzzle trainers and feeding mats, encourage your dog to use his or her cognitive skills while challenging both gross and fine motor muscle groups to solve a challenge or obtain a reward.
When you can’t get outside to play a proper game of fetch or chase, you can still encourage your pup’s hunting instincts through an old-fashioned game of hide-and-seek. To start, simply tell your dog to sit and stay while you hide elsewhere. Give your dog a cue that will signal it’s time to come and find you, and reward him or her with a treat at the end. Play as many rounds as you can in order to maximize movement potential for your pup.
Both dogs and children alike find bubbles fascinating. In fact, specialized dog bubbles, ones that come in various scents and flavors such as cheese, bacon or chicken, provide an enjoyable sensory experience for your pet as they chase and attempt to pop the floating balls. This makes a great indoor activity so long as you have enough space to accommodate a little bit of chasing without jeopardizing your furniture or other homewares due to a stray bubble or two.
Fetch on the Stairs
Whether you have a staircase of your own or need to head to the staircase of your apartment building, you can set up a classic game of fetch by tossing a ball or another toy up or down the stairs for your pet to grab and return to you. The action of running and climbing flights of stairs can do a lot to tire your dog out in a short amount of time, so it’s important to keep an eye on your dog’s energy levels and speed to make sure he or she stays healthy and in control of his or her body during the process.
Games are an excellent way to get your dog moving around the house while stimulating their innate inclinations, and in this case, the game “Find It” encourages natural smelling and detecting behavior. This game works much like hide-and-seek, but instead of a person, your dog is tasked with finding a treat or toy. Start small, by hiding the object in an apparent location and work up to hiding things in more obscure locations so your dog has to embark on a treasure hunt in order to discover the reward.
Either outside or inside, make sure your dog gets enough exercise to reap the benefits of consistent physical activity. Some outdoor activities may take less time than inside games, but both provide numerous benefits that are more likely to ensure you and your dog get to enjoy as long a happy and healthy life together as possible, so you can keep running, playing and exploring for years to come.
photo credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/-Elf7vDV7Rk
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