Exercise with your pet

Most people don’t realize that they can incorporate their pet into their fitness routine. Exercise is a great way to relax, get fit and bond with your cat or dog. It is easiest to start when your pet is young but for older pets – regular exercise can give them a new ‘lease on life.’

Dogs

Dogs enjoy exercising with their “parents” and it is good for both their physical and mental wellbeing. Here are a few options for staying active with your dog:

  • Leash walks. Walking your dog at least 20 minutes a day can help them to “burn off” excess energy and prevent boredom. Gentle walking will help keep their metabolism and muscles in top notch. If you have a senior pet, he or she is likely to suffer from arthritis. Gentle exercise, such as slow walks, can actually help their joint health and strengthen their muscles. Strong muscles contribute to good joint stability and function.
  • Obedience classes. The practice of obedience isn’t just for military and police dogs. Dogs of all breeds can participate and many dogs enjoy the challenge. The physical aspects of obedience can be shown at competitions or simply in your living room in front of your family.  Obedient dogs are also more polite and easier to have in public. Certain herding breeds, such as German Shepherd dogs, Australian Shepherds and Border Collies often need a “job.” These are very intelligent dogs and they often are not happy simply sitting around the house. They seem to enjoy the mental and physical challenge of obedience exercises.
  • Agility. Agility classes and clubs are very popular with many breeds of dogs. Some high-energy ‘working’ or ‘herding’ breeds will especially enjoy the physical challenge. Training your dog on the agility course will increase bonding and trust. It will also give you a bit of a workout!
  • Running. All over the world, dogs are becoming more physically active. Some dogs enjoy jogging alongside their owners on a frequent basis. If you decide to start running with your dog, have your veterinarian examine him first and make recommendations for conditioning. Out-of-shape dogs are likely to injure themselves if they run too far, too fast.  When you and your dog are in top-notch condition, look into 5k or 10k races – many accept dogs as participants!
  • Dog parks. Almost every city has at least one public dog park. These are fenced spaces where dogs can run free safely and socialize with other dogs. It is a great opportunity for them to stay fit.  Many owners enjoy the opportunity to meet new people at dog parks as well – take a cup of coffee and stay for a while!
  • Dog Yoga or ‘Doga’. Dog yoga is basically the practice of yoga with your dog. Many people use internet videos or enroll in classes. It is a very relaxing way to become more physically active with your dog. Senior dogs may benefit from the massage and stretching. 

Cats

Cats are extremely athletic animals but due to an increasingly indoor lifestyle, they can become champion couch potatoes. Here are a few ways to encourage your cat to be active.

  • Daily leash walks. This may be impossible for older cats that are ‘set in their ways’ but kittens can easily be trained to walk on a harness and leash just like a dog! As he or she gets older, they will look forward to daily walks outdoors. Cats can enjoy natural activities like running, jumping in the grass and even climbing trees, thanks to long lead lines.
  • Cat Condos or Cat Trees. Indoor cats should have furniture available that they can climb and scratch on. These are especially lovely when placed by a large window and encourages your cat to jump and climb.
  • Toys. Take a little time each day to play with your cat and have engaging toys on hand. Some cats like chasing strings while others enjoy small plush toys. Cat nip filled toys may encourage play but may leave your cat feeling ‘stoned’ or hyper-excitable.
  • Outdoor time. If it is possible and safe, it is a good idea to allow your cat access to the outdoors. Some experts think that strictly indoor cats are more prone to developing anxiety-related problems such as urine spraying and excessive clawing. An indoor-outdoor lifestyle may keep your cat happier and healthier. Being outdoors allows the cat to experience the world in a natural way and engage in natural behaviors (such as hunting) that they aren’t allowed to do indoors.  It may be possible to construct an outdoor enclosure for your cat in your garden, complete with grass, cat-safe plants, natural wood for climbing and scratching, as well as a cozy spot in the sun. This enclosure will prevent your cat from running away or being injured by another animal or car.
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