Exercising with your pet so everyone is more fit
In January, Mother Nature has much of the Northern Hemisphere locked in an icebox or, at the very least, has the “thermostat” turned way down. Nights are much longer and precipitation often resembles what can be found in a freezer. All of this adds up to pets and pet parents being overly enticed by a warm and comfortable Pet Bed or blanket as the fireplace glows and the north wind howls.
However, this is precisely the time of year when New Year’s resolutions are honed, perfected and strengthened enough to survive a full twelve months. The popular phrase “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”, as coined by Joe Kennedy and Knute Rockne in the early 20th Century, applies to this time of year as we attempt to stay active and exercise with our pets. With luck, pets will rise from their warm, cozy beds and we pet parents will set aside our hot cocoa, remote control, and blankets and get up, and hopefully out, for some exercise as we set ourselves up for a great year ahead while also providing a positive example for others to emulate.
We have to remember that pets and humans were not designed to be couch potatoes. We are both hunters, roamers, and chasers. Our bodies are used to being active. In fact, to be healthy our bodies rely on consistent exercise so we don’t become sedentary, obese or worse. Regular exercise promotes good weight maintenance, increased cardio fitness, better digestion and elimination, stronger bones, increased flexibility and agility, and better muscle tone.
There are many ways to exercise with your pet, both indoors and out. And some side benefits of exercising alongside your pet is you will both burn off energy, become less stressed, sleep better at night and maybe even meet fellow pets and pet owners that have similar interests. Not to mention there will be less energy available for pets to chew up shoes, jump on guests and furniture, dig in the backyard or cry, whine or bark. Below you will find tips and suggestions for your Double Dip New Year’s resolution while enjoying the opportunity for both you and your pet to exercise together and create an even stronger animal-owner bond.
Just like pet parents, pets can get tight muscles or lose muscle tone when not exercising consistently, which can easily happen in the winter months. Before starting an exercise regimen it is a good idea for everyone to walk for a day or two inside or out and stretch to loosen up the muscles and regain some flexibility. And if the desire is to run or play fetch hard, ease into it gradually. You will be glad you did versus taking a trip to the vet or doctor.
According to Dr. Ernie Ward D.V.M, a veterinarian and founder of APOP (Association of Pet Obesity Prevention), the key is to start off slow after a good warm up. In his vet practice, he sees a good number of knee ligament tears each spring when pets try to work out vigorously too soon after an extended hiatus. Exercising with your pet is a great way for both of you to become more energized, enjoy increased stamina and realize a great mood boost - especially during the long winter nights.
Here are 10 great recommendations from Dr. Ward and pet enthusiasts for exercising with your pet.
1) The Follow Game is fun, both inside and out. When it’s too cold outside, simply walk around inside going from room to room. To play the Follow game, put your pet in a heal/sit position on your left side. Then have them follow beside you while stopping and putting them into a heal/sit position each time you stop. You can do this on a walk outside or inside. When inside and going from room to room, you can also include going up and down stairs for an even better workout.
2) Fetch is a great way for your pet to exercise. If you are stuck indoors, simply find a hallway without breakables and toss a ball or soft object down the hallway and have your pet fetch and bring it back to you. Most pets love to play fetch and small pets really enjoy fetch in the house since they are smaller and more agile.
3) Agility Exercises are great for both large and small pets. Place some pillows, small cones or other soft objects in a pattern where your pet can zigzag around them, learning agility. Go slow at first, then hasten their movements as your pet gets used to it. Low calorie treats make a good incentive.
4) Variable Speed Walking/Running changes the pace and keeps things fresh. When walking outside or in, vary the pace. Walk or run slow, then fast for a little bit, then slow again. The varying pace will help with boredom, as well as your pet learning to accelerate and decelerate at different intervals. This is a good challenge for both pet and pet owner.
5) Dancing can be a nice change of pace for your pet. Yes, you have permission to dance with your pet. What a great way to strengthen your bond and get exercise at the same time. Just be judicious with the time they spend on their back legs dancing.
6) Brain Training is just as fun and stimulating. Teaching your pet to high five, shake, sit, stay, lay down, roll over, “speak”, play dead and a myriad of other tricks is a great way to get them moving while exercising their brain as well.
7) Nose Work is an excellent exercise to get pets up and moving and at the same time stimulate their curiosity and innate scent-tracking abilities. Hide treats inside objects and scatter throughout the house or outside, making it harder as the game progresses. Not only will your pet get some good physical exercise, but it will increase their ability to focus and is a great exercise for their noggin as well.
8) Socialize inside or out. Play dates inside your home or in the yard are lots of fun for pets and pet parents alike. Just like dog parks are great fun for all, one on one play sessions with a friendly pet can teach social skills as well as provide great exercise.
9) Doga is like Yoga, but for dogs and their owners. Learn classic Yoga moves, but alongside your pooch, as you both benefit from increased flexibility, a stronger bond, a more relaxed relationship, better behavior and injury rehab. Doga is also a great exercise for obese or elderly dogs/owners.
10) Day Trips can be a great way to enjoy additional exercise for pets and pet parents. Take your pet along for a shopping trip, to an outdoor mall or the pet store. Not only will you both get more exercise, but it will be a great social outing for all.
So, make 2019 the year of the “double-dip resolution” to exercise more with your pet. Not only will it encourage you to exercise more often, but your pet will benefit greatly as well. It will keep your exercise routine fresh and your bond with your pet will be stronger than ever. In addition, you will be setting a great example for others to follow.
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