When you first got Fido, you probably figured that a nice little perk would be all the extra exercise that would come with walking him.
Then life happened. Board meetings. Soccer games. Vacations. Meal planning. Every new activity that pops up is one more reason to sidestep the dog walk that day.
Fitting in exercise with your pooch doesn’t have to a drag, though, or just another item on your to-do list. Here are eight simple ways to put pet exercise back on your calendar—and to keep it fun. As a side note, you should always have your veterinarian sign off on any exercise program you plan to do with your dog, to make sure he doesn’t have any health problems that could rule out a particular activity.
1. Grab a friend. Have you seen a group of people in your neighborhood walking around the block with their own dogs? Try teaming up with them so that you’ll have someone to pull you along if you feel like skipping it one day. Plus, this way, if for some reason you really can’t walk Fido one day, your friend can do it for you, and vice versa.
2. Get the whole family to go. Fido probably isn’t the only one missing out because of everyone’s busy schedules. If you find that you have less and less time to catch up with the kids as well, try making your pet’s exercise a family activity. Do it at the same time every night—perhaps after dinner is cleaned up and homework is done—that way it becomes a habit. This is a great way to get the whole family exercising and to make sure you stay updated on the goings-on in your family’s lives.
3. Make it a game. To motivate everyone in the family into making dog walking an important part of the day, try making it into a game. For young kids, it could be that each time one of them reminds you to walk the dog, and then joins you for the walk, they earn points toward a prize at the end of the week—like picking the movie to watch on Saturday or deciding what’s for dessert.
4. Combine it with an errand. If you have things that you need to get done, but you haven’t walked the dog yet, consider whether you can take him along. For example, if you’re off to your daughter’s soccer game, and it’s walking distance, consider walking and taking the dog instead of driving.
5. Get creative. If you really don’t have the time to head out of the house for exercise one day, at least try to engage your animal in some extra indoor activity. Throw some toys up and down the stairs for Fido to chase, or throw a Frisbee around in the back yard while you’re grilling dinner.
6. Sign up for a race. Nothing’s more likely to motivate you to put your running shoes on than signing up for and paying to run an upcoming race. So lace up your sneaks, grab the leash and the dog and hit the pavement.
7. Take it off road. If you’re not into walking or running, consider alternative methods of exercise for both you and your furry friend. Tons of dog breeds love swimming, or you could even bring your dog to a dog park and let him off-leash while you sit close by and read or work.
8. Split up your time. Maybe you don’t have a solid 20-25 minutes every morning or evening to walk Fido, but you don’t have to. Even if you only have five minutes in the morning for a quick one-loop around the neighborhood, and another 10 at night, that’s OK. It doesn’t matter when you get pet exercise in, it just matters that you do at least a little something with your pet every day.