By Christina Schmohl
Working out takes time, and sometimes time is the toughest thing to find. If you've got pets, they certainly add to your demands. Why not kill two birds with one stone (not the best reference for a pet story!) and get fit with Fido. Exercise is critical for dogs. Here are a few easy suggestions for getting you both into tip-top shape-- together.
Colleen Safford, Owner of New York Walk & Train, believes that “the old-fashioned way is the best way.” Safford recommends a fast walk, hike, or game of fetch. John Reh, of Dogs Love Running, agrees that the best and simplest form of exercise for Fido is a daily walk and for higher-energy dogs, a daily run. Although Safford believes in brisk walking, she claims that jogging on cement isn't the best for dogs' joints.
But, Eric Abbey, President of Loving Pets, believes that a jog or brisk walk is okay, so long as you research what your dog's breed is capable of beforehand. “Companion breeds like the Shih Tzus and Chihuahuas will have lower exercise needs than hunting breeds, such as a Labrador Retriever or Poodle,” explains Abbey. Abbey advises to also consider the age and health condition of your dog, prior to running. Although puppies tend to have more energy, Abbey cautions not to over-exert them since their bones are still developing. When jogging or brisk walking, Abbey reminds us to pack water for ourselves and our dog. If holding the leash while running becomes too cumbersome, he also suggests tying the leash around our waists.
In addition to walking or jogging, Safford believes that mental stimulation is as important as physical. Safford says dogs typically enjoy puzzles, so toys stuffed with food are a great way to get a pooch’s mental juices flowing. Safford also suggests sports such as flyball, a sport that involves dogs jumping over hurdles, and treibball, an interactive sport between you and your dog that involves a series of obstacles. Abbey says you can add in simple games such as playing hide and seek or tossing a Frisbee.
Or, try a flirt pole. Similar to a fishing pole, a flirt pole requires a sturdy stick, 1/8 inch of nylon cord, and a toy. Abbey says to drill a hole in both ends of the stick, thread the nylon cord through one end, and tie it off with a knot big enough to anchor the cord. Feed the cord down the pipe, poking it through the other drilled hole so that several feet of cord hang from one end of the pipe. Attach your dog’s favorite toy and swing it up and down, side-to-side and draw circles to entertain your dog, and maybe even yourself, too!
For overweight dogs or those with joint problems, Abbey recommends swimming. “Canine floatation devices can be a good solution for dogs that are not natural swimmers. If your dog has never been in water, let them watch you swim first, and then invite your dog to get his feet wet.” As always, Abbey cautions to supervise your dog when it is swimming or involved in any rigorous activity.
According to Abbey, it is not always evident a dog is injured. Look for subtleties such as a limp, an increase in aggression, or a resistance to activities normally enjoyed. Dr. Kimberly May, Assistant Director of Professional and Public Affairs at the American Veterinary Medical Association, adds, "Just as a person should consult their physician before beginning an exercise regimen, they should consult their veterinarian about an appropriate exercise regimen for their pet.”