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7 Ways to Keep Fido Fit (and Happy)

January 26, 2017

7 Ways to Keep Fido Fit (and Happy) | Golden Meadows

Feel like you’re on a wild goose chase trying to keep your dog slim, trim, and in shape? You aren’t alone. Research shows that dogs who stay in shape live longer, healthier, and happier lives, so keeping your furry companion moving is important. This is just one of the many reasons that dog parks, play dates, doggy daycares, and even rehab centers are cropping up all across the country. Just as you can benefit from 30 to 60 minutes of exercise per day, so, too, can your dog. From running around the block to engaging in activities that build muscle and intelligence, too, these activities will get your dog moving and see both of you having fun.

Swimming

Diving into your swimming pool – or even into the water at your local lake – is one of the best ways to keep your dog strong and active. The weight of the water encourages your pup to work his muscles harder, thus giving him a better workout, but it also cushions the joints and helps to prevent wear and tear. Swimming can even build endurance and increase your pup’s lung capacity over time, making it an excellent rehab activity after injury or illness.

For safety reasons, only swim at safe, water-tested beaches and lakes. It’s generally fine for Fido to pop into the family swimming pool, too. Just be sure to rinse him off well with fresh water after you’re done to remove any chlorine or chemicals.

Play Dates

If you have multiple dogs, you probably have small play sessions right at home every day. If you just have one dog, your play sessions might be limited to just you and your furry friend. Either way, extending playtime is one of the easiest and best ways to get your dog moving and stimulate his mind at the same time.

Dogs are inherently social creatures; they love to be part of the pack. They also love to wrestle, run, jump, and play until they’re so worn out they plop down for a nap. That’s good cardio, and it’ll build endurance, too.

As long as your pup isn’t aggressive around other canines – a problem that can often be ameliorated through training – play dates two to three times a week should go off without a hitch.

Don’t underestimate the value of doggy daycare, especially if you’re at work all throughout the day. These facilities not only monitor and care for your pet, they allow him to spend the day running, jumping, playing, and sleeping among other pups. This is infinitely preferable to spending the day lying on the living room floor alone.

Don’t have access to a doggy daycare you can trust? There’s a second option. Consider reaching out to other dog owners in your local area. Hang a sign at the local dog park or even in your supermarket announcing that you’d like to schedule play dates. All you need for fun with a few other canines is a safe, enclosed space, a bag of high-quality treats, a few toys, and a place for pet owners to sit and chat.

You might even find a few new friends of your own in the process!

Agility Training

You’ve probably seen it on television, or maybe at your local dog show. Agility training, often held on a small obstacle course, tests a dog’s physical and mental abilities all at the same time. Many of the best agility performance dogs in the world train for months in order to be effective on the playing field. Fortunately, you don’t need to invest that level of time into training just to reap its benefits.

Research shows that those benefits may be extensive. Think of it this way: in the wild, your dog’s distant cousin, the wolf, spends much of his time running, chasing, jumping, climbing, and scrambling over brush and other objects. To a dog, this is the pinnacle of excitement. Furthermore, because your dog must use both his brain and his brawn at the same time, his coordination and ability to react to changes quickly will also improve.

Dog agility training is to dogs as boot camp programs are to humans – intense, but incredibly enjoyable once you get the hang of it.

There is one small caveat: agility training may not be right for older or infirm dogs simply because training elevates the risk of injury in these canine populations. Always have your dog in for a veterinary checkup to rule out contraindicated conditions.

Home Treadmill

To someone who’s never heard of treadmill training for dogs – or to those who have only seen the many treadmill accidents posted to YouTube – this might seem like a strange suggestion. A dog on a treadmill? Does that really work?

According to dog trainers all over the country, the answer is yes. People living in small spaces, like apartments or inner-city condos, may indeed find that their furry friends benefit from 30 to 60 minutes on the treadmill a day. Running or walking in place not only provides your dog with an excellent cardio workout, but may help him to recover from or deal with issues like arthritis, cruciate ligament injuries, and other orthopedic problems, too.

Unfortunately, starting your dog on a treadmill isn’t as simple as plopping Fido down on your gym equipment. It’s far safer and more reliable for your pup if you purchase a dog-specific treadmill that’s the right size for his length and weight. Manufacturers build these machines to specifically accommodate a dog’s unique gait and shape.

Human-Dog Sports

Love sports? Your dog probably will, too. Games like soccer, football, and even basketball challenge you and build cardiovascular health while improving hand-eye coordination – a sure-fire way to build up your own endurance over time. Include your dog in the fun by modifying the games to be just a bit more suitable for your furry friend, and he’s likely to experience the same benefits you do, all at the same time.

For soccer, football, or basketball, just skip the regular ball and purchase a durable dog-safe version instead. Let your dog try to wrest the ball away from you before you hit the goal; when he does, he’s scored a point. Should you make it to the goal post, you score a point. Reward each of your dog’s wins with a favorite treat (and maybe an ice cream or latte when you win, too).

Climb Those Stairs

This one’s simple; find a set of concrete steps in your local area, and jog your dog up and down them a few times every few days. It’s an easy and affordable cardio and strength workout that doesn’t require any extra equipment – perfect for dog parents on a budget. Like Pilates or step training for humans, climbing the stairs exercises your dog’s glutes, core, back legs, and front legs, all while building lung capacity over time.

There is a small caveat to this activity. It’s best to avoid intense stair workouts with certain breeds, like the King Charles Spaniel, or young, still-growing pups whose growth plates have yet to become solid. The first is prone to heart problems, while intense stair workouts can sometimes cause breaks or dislocations in the latter. Always check with your vet.

Fling Ball

Not able to exercise yourself, or just not feeling up to it? Maybe you’ve been hit with the dreaded flu. Have no fear, brave dog lover – there’s a way to ensure that your pup still gets the exercise he needs when extenuating circumstances get in the way.

Ball-throwing devices and ball throwers allow you to whip the ball forward like a slingshot, sending it flying further than you could by hand. Perfect for dog parks, wide open expanses, and indoor areas with plenty of space, they’re the fetch-lovers best friend.

The simplest versions work like a slingshot, giving the ball extra velocity and speed by allowing the pet owner to slingshot it into the air. Other versions function like automatic baseball throwers instead, using the power of a motor to hurl the ball over great distances. These may be appropriate for those with disabilities or conditions that don’t allow for intense exercise.

At the end of the day, anything you can do to get and keep your dog moving is likely to help him stay in shape. Whether the two of you love playing sports or you look forward to chatting with canine owners during play dates, the most important thing for you to do is be a reliable and supportive coach in your dog’s everyday active life. Get out and get involved, and Fido will thank you for years to come.

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