By now, most of us are very aware that exercise is an essential part of good health, and this holds true for our pets too. Obesity is not only on the rise among humans, but it’s also becoming a big problem in the pet world too.
As with the start of any new pet regime, it’s always advisable to consult with your veterinarian before starting your pet off on any new exercise program. Then once you’ve done that, begin slowly with whatever new program you're implementing. A human wouldn’t expect to be able to run a marathon the first day they start a running program, and your pet shouldn’t be expected to either.
Rule of thumb is to start slowly with 10 or 15 minutes of light paced walking and slowly build your way up to 30 minutes at least 3 times a week. Watch your pet carefully and if they exhibit any signs of undue stress or exhaustion, be sure to stop and take rest breaks along the way. And always be sure your pet is well hydrated, by supplying them with plenty of fresh water, before, during and after exercise.
If you are starting this program with an older pet, be conservative because they won’t be able to take on the physical demands that a younger pet can. And be careful exercising your pet if they have a “flat face” structure, as do Boston Terriers, Pugs, Bulldogs and Persian cats, because breathing can often be more difficult for these breeds. And be careful with young puppies too, since although they might appear to have endless energy, keep in mind they’re still growing and developing, so you don’t want to put undue demands on their bodies either.
So if your pet spends the better part of their day being inactive or if you live in a place where they need to be confined indoors most of the time, here are some great ideas for introducing some activity into the life of your pet. So let’s get started now!
Fetch and Run up and Down the Stairs
If you have a set of stairs indoors, this one is very simple and it’s great because stairs engage many different sets of muscles that are not often used out on a regular walk. It works best to use carpeted stairs so your pet won’t slip, but you can use any sets of stairs as long as they don’t have a slippery surface. You can either stand at the top of the stairs with a toy and call your dog up to you, or else throw the toy up the stairs and have your dog fetch it. Rest in between sets and do this a few times and your pet has just gotten a great aerobic workout. Now how simple was that?
Take Your Dog on a Bike Ride with You
If it’s not raining or snowing, taking your dog out on a gentle bike ride with you is a good thing for both of you. It takes a little practice to learn to navigate this skill, but if you use this clever bike attachment, the two of you will be pros at cycling together before you know it.
Enroll your Pet in an Obedience or Agility Class
Do an online search wherever you live, and research if there are any local Obedience or Agility classes available in which you and your dog can participate. If you've never had your dog participate in an agility class before, it might be a good idea to attend one first and just observe what goes on and how they work. This way you'll find out if this will be an appropriate activity for your pet and it might also give you an opportunity to talk with whoever is in charge after the class is finished. And you might just meet other pet owners who would like to get together for a walk with you and your pet too.
Use a Laser Pointer to Play Chase
This one is super simple and can be used for both cats and dogs, however it won’t provide you with much exercise. If you don’t already own one, pick up an inexpensive laser pointer at the office supply store. Turn on the light and shine it across the floor and watch as your dog or cat chases the laser light back and forth, just be careful to not shine the light directly into your pet’s eyes. And if you shine the light up and down a set of stairs for them to chase, now you’ve just increased the intensity of their light chasing workout.
Play Tug of War
If your pet is not the aggressive type, you should be able to easily play tug of war with them, but just be careful and don’t encourage the game to become too aggressive, or you may end up with a training problem. There are strong ropes and heavy handled pull toys you can buy at the pet store that are exclusively designed for this purpose. Just be sure before you begin this game, that you know you are definitely in charge of your dog and that they totally always totally respect you as being their leader. In other words, if you begin to see unhealthy signs of aggression during this type of play, be sure to discontinue it immediately until you are absolutely certain that you are entirely in control of the game and that your dog will disengage immediately upon your command.
Visit Your Local Dog Park or Playing Field
Getting you and your dog outside for socialization and exercise is always a good thing for both of you. So do some research online to find out if there is a local dog park in your area and if not, check out to see if there are local playing fields or parks that will allow dogs and determine if they can be off leash there or not. Once you arrive at whatever venue you've chosen, then you can throw old tennis balls, pet toys or Frisbees to engage your pet in a good round of run and fetch. The trick will be to get them to bring whatever item you are throwing, back to you!
So don’t let winter weather deter you from exercising with your pet, there are still plenty of ways you can get some exercise if you just give it a little thought and commit to doing it.