As caring dog owners, we all appreciate the importance of exercise for dogs. In most cases, this exercise takes the form of regular daily walks through your local neighbourhood. However when you consider all the ways we humans get exercise – from cycling to kite surfing – it makes a daily walk around the block look rather boring for your pet, don’t you think?
Today therefore we wanted to look at some alternative ways for your dog to get some exercise. Whether you use these as an occasional treat for your pet or they become a regular part of your pet care regime hopefully you’ll at least appreciate that exercise doesn’t just have to be a quick walk down your street before work.
Too often, dog walkers regard taking their pet for a walk as just an obligation. They don’t understand just how much their dog looks forward to this experience and how stimulating he finds it.
When I’m outside with my dog I never cease to be amazed by just how many people simply take their dog “around the block” quickly while listening to their iPod or chatting on their phone. Their poor dog gets to walk the same route, down the same roads, day after day. Often with little or no contact from their owner, apart from the odd scolding. Even stopping to have a good sniff can get your collar a tug if you’re unlucky.
Walks don’t have to be like this though. Try putting a little more effort into your dog walking and add in some variety. At least a couple of times a week forget about the concrete and the tarmac and instead take your pet to a local park or area of countryside.
Not only will the change of scenery be good for both you and your dog but just consider all the new smells, sights, and sounds for your dog to explore. It’s like a whole new experience watching an energetic dog bouncing along through long grass, ducking in and out of hedges, and dashing around trees. This isn’t just routine exercise; it’s fun; it’s an experience in itself. Just try it a few times and pay attention to just how much fun your dog really has if you need to be convinced.
Training classes aren’t just restricted to puppies; even many adult dogs can benefit from some additional obedience training. However, in addition to learning new commands and better respect for their owners, obedience classes can also be another excellent source of exercise for your pet.
Especially in situations where your dog is not used to attending classes, the new tasks he will be asked to complete in combination with all the new people and dogs that he’s never met before will once again provide all manner of stimulation – both for the mind as well as the body.
Already got a perfectly-behaved pooch? If so why not skip the obedience class and instead take things up a notch with an agility course? A number of clubs now meet regularly around the country to help you introduce your dog to the concept of dog agility. In this way, even absolute beginners can make rapid progress and help their dog to exercise in a whole new way.
Dog agility gives you an opportunity to strengthen the bond you have with your pet, as well as introducing them to all sorts of new exercise opportunities. From running over see-saws to dashing in and out of the slalom poles, to zipping through the tunnels you can almost see the look of excitement on the dog’s faces as they’re allowed to burn off all manner of energy in a safe and carefully-controlled environment.
Taking your dog down to the local swimming baths is unlikely to be regarded very highly by your local swimming club. However, taking your dog down to the beach where they can run around and dash through the water is really just as much fun for your pet.
Try throwing a floating dog toy for your pet to encourage them to paddle out into deeper water or even put on your speedos and get wet yourself. Encouraging your dog to follow you can be an ideal way to get an anxious dog used to swimming in the great outdoors.
Appreciate that just as with humans swimming allows us to exercise all manner of muscles not normally targeted with standard exercise. Swimming can also be a fantastic way to help an overweight pet to shed some pounds, as well as a way for dogs with disabilities to exercise in a supportive environment.
One final option for the truly athletic dog (and owner!) is the practice of flyball. At its simplest, your dog learns to run up to box whereby they trigger a ball to be rapidly fired into the air. Your dog’s job is then to chase this ball and retrieve it as swiftly as possible.
As you can imagine it takes a certain kind of dog to have the energy and enthusiasm for such an activity. Basset hounds, for example, are not known for their fly ball prowess! On the other hand more active breeds like many of the sheepdog breeds can derive enormous fun from the activity. You’ll also have the quietest evening of your life when you return home with your exhausted (yet happy) pet!