Time to spring into action! April is Canine Fitness Month, and it’s the best time to grab your running shoes together with your furry best friend.
Our loyal companions need regular exercise for both their physical and mental health. Because dogs tend to become sedentary as they age, they can be prone to obesity, which can cause sore joints, diabetes, and more.
To combat a sedentary lifestyle, Canine Fitness Month encourages paw parents to take a step toward developing healthier habits with our four-legged family members. Regular exercise is crucial to your dog’s health, and it comes with a plethora of benefits, including keeping your dog’s joints and muscles healthy, shedding extra pounds, and working off the excess energy. Plus, it’s a great bonding time too! But before you start, check with your veterinarian to make sure your dog has a clean bill of health before exercising.
Now, time to stretch your legs! Here are some ways to help boost your dog’s activity level.
Walking around your neighbourhood is one of the best and simplest ways to start your dog’s road to physical fitness. Walking provides mental stimulation, physical exercise, and a chance to socialise. Like kids, dogs are curious and want to explore. If they are confined indoors for too long, they will get bored, which can sometimes lead to destructive behavior.
Walking helps with proper weight and it’s a good outlet for pent-up energy. You can also consider walking as a training opportunity. Not all dogs are comfortable to walk on a leash, so this is a chance to teach your dog how to follow your lead. Don’t forget to bring treats and water for your dog and yourself!
Playing with your dogs is always fun. What we don’t often consider is that the benefits go well beyond just having fun. Aside from bonding with your dog, playtime can improve behaviour and relieve stress.
Adding in a little more playtime improves your dog’s overall mood (yours too). Spending time with your pup can have a calming effect, and some studies have shown that it can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Dogs with regular play are also less likely to develop problematic behaviour like excessive barking and chewing. When dogs get bored, they’ll find their own ways to entertain themselves—and that boredom often leads to chewed-up shoes and a couch. Keep your dogs active and engaged with regular playtime!
Hide-and-seek can boost your dog’s problem-solving abilities, stay calm when you are gone, and reinforce their recall skills (running back to you when called). It’s an exercise for both the dog’s body and brain because they’ll have to think and walk around to search for you.
Dogs have all the basic instincts for hide-and-seek. Teach your dog the rules, and you both can have fun indoors or out playing this beneficial game. Don’t forget to reward your dog with treats or a belly rub for being a good sport!
Take the stairs
Stair exercise may not be suitable for all dogs, but it comes with a lot of benefits for those who can. One of the many advantages of stair exercise is that it uses muscles not typically targeted when walking. It engages a dog’s legs, hips, shoulders, lower back muscles, and even their core.
Dogs have to lift their entire body weight from one step to the next. When they go back down, they have to control their descent, which involves negative contraction of the muscles. However, this exercise should be done carefully, as running up and down the steps at speed may result in injury.
Dog park visits
Going to the dog park rather than the yard fosters a more active environment. Dog parks are an excellent place to improve your dog’s social skills by letting them interact with other dogs of all shapes, ages, breeds, and sizes. They will also have the chance to meet and greet lots of dog-loving people. Dogs who interact and play with others get a lot of mental stimulation as well.
Make sure your dog is comfortable playing with others before going to the dog park. Not all dogs are candidates for dog-park play, and not all dog parks are suitable for all dogs.
Nosework is probably one of the best activities you can do to bond with your dog. Inspired by working detection dogs, nose work taps your dog’s hunting instincts for a specific purpose: to detect a scent and find its source.
No prior training and obedience are required for nosework. Start with hiding treats and reward your pup after they find it! This will help increase their interest in the game. The beauty of this sport is that it allows your dog to use their most highly developed sense while also keeping them active physically. Plus, nosework helps shy or fearful dogs build confidence or channel the energy of hyper dogs into fun searches.
Any dog can do nosework. You can set it up anywhere, even in the smallest of spaces.
Dogs are a big fluffy ball of energy. As you can probably guess, agility is great for helping your pup release their potential energy in a safe and fun way.
Jumping is a great first activity to teach your dog, especially if you’re both new to obstacle training. Setting up your own is doable without breaking the bank. If you have a laundry basket, empty cardboard boxes, or a stack of pillows, you’re ready to make short, beginner jumps for your buddy.
Apart from the physical benefits, an obstacle course can also help build your dog’s confidence, develop self-control, and strengthen natural instincts, to name a few.
Hiking is not just a great way to relax; it’s also the best time to bond with nature. You don’t need any high-tech gear to start. If you can walk, you and your dog can hike!
Adventuring with your dog in the woods is a great workout that doesn’t feel like it. Your focus will shift to the beauty of nature and your dog’s enjoyment.
Hiking helps with weight maintenance and mental stimulation as trails provide new scents, sounds, and sights. Make sure your dog is physically ready before hiking! Once you start hiking, increase the distance and intensity over time.
Besides being fun, swimming does great things to your dog’s overall health. Water resistance makes your dog work harder to swim.
The aerobic workout helps improve muscular strength while also working the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. It’s also an excellent therapy for dogs rehabilitating from an injury or surgery or having joint problems.
Not all dogs are good swimmers. If your pet struggles with swimming, use a safety vest designed for dogs. This will help them stay afloat and have a great time.
Mental health is just as important as physical health. Give your dog the mental stimulation they need for a happy and healthy lifestyle.
Puzzles provide mental exercise, decrease anxiety and boredom, and increase your dog’s problem-solving skills. Keep in mind that most dogs are quick to solve the problem. To keep your dog motivated, advance your pup to more complex puzzles once they’ve mastered the simpler ones.
Many interactive toys are designed to stimulate a dog’s brain and satisfy natural canine behaviours. Look for one that best resonates with your pup!
Remember that exercise needs are based on your dog’s age, breed, size, and overall health. A good rule of thumb is at least 30 minutes of exercise every day (when in doubt, reach out to your veterinarian). Younger dogs and dogs bred for sports may need much more.
Keep your dog’s vaccination up to date to prevent transmission of diseases when socialising or exploring nature. Don’t forget to keep your pup hydrated too! Outdoor activities are fun but can sometimes be strenuous. Last but not the least, reward your dog for a job well done! A reward will make them look forward to your next adventure!