We work hard to care for ourselves with proper diet and exercise. Our goal is to live a long, happy, healthy life. Likewise, we want our dogs to be by our side, so it is essential to focus on their physical and mental health. Approximately 30% of dogs are obese, which puts them at risk for several physical and psychological health challenges. Mental stimulation is also vital to a dog's health. Dogs who are "crated" for extended periods (more than 5 hours) or are home alone during the day may struggle with anxiety and depression. Just like you and me, a healthy dog is a happy dog, so we compiled a list of exercises to help with your pup's overall health.
Related: How Much Exercise Does a Puppy Need?
1. Take a Pup Led Walk
Many times when we walk our dogs, we do the leading. Either we have a path that we want to follow or have a timeframe to meet. When we allow our dog to lead, we enable her to stimulate her mind while getting much-needed exercise. When a dog is permitted to sniff at will and explore new scents, they experience sensory enrichment, which is a healthy type of mental stimulation. The walk may take twice as long and not progress at a steady pace, but your dog will be happy and exhausted at the end.
2. Build a Doggy Obstacle Course
Navigating through an obstacle course is the perfect combination of physical and mental exercise. Encourage your pup to run the obstacle course with the ideal balance of speed and agility, and then reward him for his efforts. When planning your obstacle course, keep the following in mind:
- Consider your dog's ability level, and don't make it too challenging.
- Measure your dog's height, weight, and length, and keep the measurements in mind when creating each obstacle.
- Be mindful of safety risks, like sharp edges, and make sure the obstacles are safe.
Create a course using a combination of weave poles, tunnels, and jumps. Once your dog masters the course, rearrange the obstacles and alter the heights of the jumps.
3. Take Your Pup for a Run
Although running with your dog requires a bit of training, it's a fantastic way to bond with exercise. Our dog's physical and mental health benefits from running are very similar to the benefits we experience. Research shows that dogs also enjoy a euphoric "runner's high." Before you hit the trail with your pup, make sure that you have the proper dog running gear and be patient on your first few runs while your dog grows accustomed to your pace and stride.
4. Incorporate Interactive Play
Research shows that playing with our dogs improves their mental health, behavior, and relationships. Games like fetch and tug may seem basic, but they are essential to a pup's development and mental stimulation. When you play fetch and throw your pup's toy, your dog must engage his senses and cognitive skills to sniff it out and fetch it. Playing fetch in a wide-open space encourages your dog to run back and forth with the fetch toy. Switching up the play to a game of tug is exciting to your dog and helps to build strength and impulse control.
5. Schedule a Doggo Playdate
Puppy socialization is critical for dogs to live a well-balanced, healthy life. Socializing teaches your pup to develop a healthy response to the world and minimizes aggressive or fearful reactions. When we schedule playdates for our dogs, our dogs will begin to run and play with their pup friends after an adjustment period. Your pup will continue to look forward to playdates, which exercise both their body and mind.
Photo: Dog by Tadeusz Lakota