Being active and exercising can foster a healthy lifestyle for pet and pet owner.
While all pet owners can’t be Olympic athletes, they can certainly strive to live healthier, more active lifestyles that will increase the quality of life for them and their pets. With that in mind, the ASPCA has launched an initiative, Team ASPCA, that works to fundraise for animals but also promotes exercise and healthy living. The initiative encourages animal lovers to become active in order to fundraise for critical cause-related programs. Team ASPCA members work in tandem to take part in marathons, half-marathons, and other endurance events that raise funds for ASPCA causes.Though Team ASPCA members can’t participate in events with their furry friends, they can certainly train with them to prepare for whatever endurance challenge they are facing. Doing so will not only help the person partaking in an endurance event, but will also help their furry friends by increasing their exercise and overall activity levels. In training for these events, here are some excellent activities both pet and pet owner can do to stay healthy.
“Running is an excellent way to keep you and your pet in shape,” says Trish McMillan Loehr, MSc, CPDT. “This activity can be done anywhere, doesn’t take much special equipment, and is a great bonding time with your dog.”
While running can be a great bonding experience, it does have a few drawbacks. For starters, for all its health benefits running can be hard on a dog’s paws and joints, especially on pavement, and can’t be done by short-nosed breeds. Additionally, it’s always important to be mindful of the heat, since our pooches have a lower threshold for it than humans do. To adjust for this, try running in the early morning or late evening or in the fall and winter times, times when the sun isn’t so intense.
Biking is another excellent way to keep you and your dog in shape. Most dogs can run farther than we can, and if you’re not a runner yourself this activity is probably right for you. Attachments make the activity safe and allow you to keep your pup close to your bike.
While it can tire a dog out easily, and is mutually beneficial to the health of pet and pet owner, the activity can be dangerous. Pets need to be properly trained if you are going to do this activity.
Especially in the summer, swimming is likely the best activity for pets and their people to participate in together.
“Dogs are unable to sweat the way we do, so the best way to tire them out in the summertime is to take them swmming,” says Loehr.
In the pool, you can play games with your dog like fetch, or just swim laps. Either will get the job done when it comes to exercising both you and your pet.
“One tip,” says Loehr, “is to stay shallow at first. You don’t want to get too close to your dog’s nails, or have your dog try to climb you like a raft.”
Another great exercise for both pet and pet owner is to go hiking. While it is hard work, hiking is a naturally enriching experience for dogs in particular.
“Dogs live in a world of scent, and the great outdoors has so much for them to explore,” says Loehr. If you’d like to give your dog a little extra workout, you can have them carry a little backpack too.”
Most people can find a location to hike anywhere, a definite plus for this healthy activity. The cons, of course, are that nature can be dangerous. Wildlife can pose a threat or agitation to canines, and pups can have a hard time staying cool in hot weather.
Think those obstacle courses you see are just workouts for the dogs? Agility classes are excellent exercise for both pet and owner/handler. It’s not easy to stay alongside your dog as he’s racing through obstacles, but agility classes require you to try and do just that. Taking these classes ensures that both pet and pet owner get an excellent workout.
Tips for Exercising with Your Pet
While exercise is healthy for both pet and pet owner, it’s important that it is done properly. If you are going to exercise or partake in activities with your pet, make sure that your dog is fully grown.
“Make sure the growth plates in [your dog’s] lets have closed before beginning intensive exercise, especially things that can be hard on joints, like jumping or running on sidewalks,” says Loehr. “It is a very good idea to start with basic obedience or puppy socialization classes because obedience and good social skills are vital for sports dogs (and very nice skills to have in a family pet, too).”
Another thing: if you have questions about your dog partaking in exercise activities with you, be sure to run it by your vet. Young dogs, senior dogs and dogs with medical conditions should all be cleared for activity by your vet before any exercise takes place. Additionally, be sure to start working out with your pet slowly and work your way up. Similar to how most people can’t train for a marathon in a single day, your pets can’t take on too much physical activity all at once. Ease your way into it, and you and Fido will be having fun exercising and being healthy in no time.