Who couldn’t benefit from a little more exercise? Many people repeatedly promise themselves to get in shape and make health a priority, but fail to follow through as life gets busy. Health coaches tout the benefits of an exercise partner who will keep you accountable — why not make your pet your partner? More than 50% of pet dogs and cats are overweight or obese, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, so your furry friend may also need the exercise. If he is in the healthy half of the pet population, he will love the extra attention, and the increased activity will help him be calmer and better-mannered. You also will have a partner who won’t let you forget about your daily training sessions, and will show his gratitude with sloppy kisses. Try these pet-friendly activities:
- Walking with your pet — A brisk daily walk is a good way to ease into exercising. Choose a time that works for you, and pencil it into your schedule so you don’t forget—although your pooch will likely remind you if you try to skip out on him. Many people find morning walks invigorating, while others enjoy winding down the evening with a nice stroll. If your dog is not used to walking, start slowly, covering only a few blocks at first, and gradually work up to longer distances. If your pet pants excessively, tires easily, or acts painful, discontinue your walks and consult our veterinary team. Heart and lung disease can interfere with your pet’s exercise tolerance, and it’s best to take a break until we can evaluate him for these conditions.
- Running with your pet — If you and your dog are fairly fit, or if you’ve mastered your daily walking routine, you may decide to advance to running. Slowly introduce running by adding jogging intervals into your daily walks. Gradually increase the jogging intervals and shorten the walking portion until you are running the entire distance. On days that you don’t run, your dog will probably need a race around the back yard or a game of fetch.
- Hiking with your pet — Fall in Ohio is the perfect time to scout out a new hiking trail. Many local metro parks are pet-friendly, and the colorful fall landscape will provide plenty of natural entertainment for you both. Your pet will love sniffing out a new path, and you can enjoy the crisp air and smell of falling leaves. As fall moves into winter, you can keep exploring, because most parks are open year-round. If you and your companion bundle up, a quick hike can be a much-needed cabin-fever cure.
- Camping with your pet — Camping naturally involves extra activity — between setting up a tent, collecting firewood, and exploring your surroundings, you’ll quickly rack up exercise without giving it a thought. Most dogs love enjoying the fresh air while camping with their family. Remember to keep your pet on a leash or tethered to a sturdy object while outdoors. If your pet wanders off into the woods, he may have trouble finding his way back in unfamiliar territory, and he could be attacked by a wild animal.
- Agility training with your pet — Pets and owners alike can enjoy the benefits of agility training. Your pet will gain confidence as his performance improves, and you will add a fun, new exercise as you run alongside and encourage him on to the next obstacle. You can sign up for agility classes, or set up obstacles in your backyard. Start with basic, easy-to-master obstacles, such as collapsible tunnels or weave poles, and move on to more complex tasks.
- Playing with your cat — While it’s safer to keep your cat indoors, that doesn’t mean you can’t ensure he gets plenty of physical activity. Move a laser pointer around or let your cat chase a feather toy to keep him moving.
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