How to Keep Your Dog Fit and Healthy: Part 2

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Yesterday, we talked about how diet and exercise are important for keeping your dog fit and healthy. Here’s part 2, where I’ll discuss fun ways to get your dog moving!

II. Getting Moving

There are a number of ways to get your dog moving. Some are easy to do and easy to fit into your day; others are more difficult, costly, and time-consuming. Try different activities and find out what you enjoy the most.

  • Walk – Fit walks in whenever you can, or hire a dog walker if you can’t do it yourself. Walks are one of the easiest ways to exercise your dog. If you find it difficult to get motivated, walk with friends, join or form a dog walking Meetup group, or use an app such as Map My Fitness or Walk My Dog to track your progress.
  • Run – If you prefer a faster pace, run with your dog. Be sure to increase mileage gradually and begin each run with a warm-up.  For a training program for you and your dog, see poochto5k.com.
  • Fetch – If you have a yard or park nearby, play fetch. Make sure to warm up your dog well first because fetch requires fast-action stops and starts. My dog and I use our daily walk as a warm up for a game of fetch.
  • Hike – Take a hike! Explore your local parks, join or form a hiking Meetup group or a Dog Scout troop, or try geocaching. Hiking can be an extremely enjoyable way to exercise.
  • Play – Arrange play dates with other dogs, or take your dog to a dog park or doggie day care. If the dog park is overwhelming for your dog, set up play dates with just one or two other dogs.
  • Swim – Swimming is great exercise and is often used in rehabilitation for dogs.  Look for dog swimming facilities in your area and dog-friendly beaches and lakes.
  • Sports – Try out dog sports such as agility, flyball, trieball, carting or freestyle.  Classes in agility and trieball are offered at many dog training facilities, and some facilities have their own flyball teams. Freestyle classes can be more difficult to find (see this directory), but instructional videos are available on YouTube and from vendors such as Dancing With Your Dog. If you’re interested in carting, check out Carting with Your Dog: Positive Draft Training for Fun and Competition by Laura Waldbaum.
  • Tricks – Tricks can be good exercise as well as a lot of fun!  You can find a number of trick instruction videos on YouTube, and you can purchase videos such as Silvia Trkman’s Tricks for Balance, Strength, and Coordination (available here).
  • Games – Games such as keep-away and hide-and-seek are not only good exercise, but also fun for your dog and a great rainy day activity. For more ideas, look at Kyra Sundance’s book 10-Minute Dog Training Games (available here ).
  • Herding – Learning and mastering herding can be very time-consuming, but some dogs simply love to herd. If this interests you and you can devote the time to it, have your dog take a herding instinct test, then work with an experienced herding trainer or attend a herding clinic.
  • Conditioning – You can help your dog develop balance and core strength using canine conditioning equipment such as inflatable “peanuts”, balance discs, and wobble boards. Equipment and training videos are available at FitPAWS. They even have a video called Pilates for Pooches.
  • Doga – Doga is yoga with your dog, which combines gentle stretching, massage, and relaxation.

Benefits

Exercise provides both physical and mental stimulation for your dog. It can often help with behavioral issues and result in a healthier, happier, and more relaxed dog. Exercising together can strengthen your bond with your dog. It can help you become fit too!

Rebecca Randolph is a blogger, writer, artist, and attorney, but most importantly, a dog mom.  She leads hikes for her local Dog Scout troop and is an active member of a dog hiking Meetup group.  You can read about her lab Garth and their adventures at The World According to Garth Riley.

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