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How to spice up your dog's exercise routine

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A varied exercise routine will help your dog stay in shape, and save it from boredom. “Being stuck in a yard or crate is an incredibly boring existence for a dog,” said Chicago-based veterinarian Dr. Tony Kremer, citing boredom as one reason for incessant barking. According to Kremer, a bored dog can also be destructive, out-of-shape, and rife with behavior problems.

To prevent these problems, he recommends giving dogs what they need to explore and interact with the world and keep “life exciting.” That includes a spiced-up exercise regimen to maintain their weight and stave off monotony. Following are a few suggestions.

Walking

While a walk may not seem like much for people, it can be a stimulating experience for a dog, said Kremer, especially if it’s not used to getting out.

“The same way we check our e-mail, dogs use a walk and their heightened sense of smell to check their ‘pee-mail’,” he said. “That’s what keeps their lives interesting.”

But is a walk always enough? It depends, he said, on a dog’s breed, age, and energy level. For example, sporting and herding breeds like retrievers and collies may need more than toy breeds like pugs and poodles.

High-energy activities

If you know your dog is high energy, there’s much you can do to keep them busy. That includes, for example:

  • Competitive events like fly ball, a relay for dogs, and agility training, in which dogs navigate an obstacle course.
  • Running, or, if your dog has hip and joint issues, the more gentle activity of swimming.
  • Bicycling with a dog bike leash that attaches to your bike.
  • Fetch with a tennis ball, Frisbee, lure, or Dog Kong.
  • A trip to the dog park, where dogs can play and interact with others.
  • Lunge-whip, in which you throw a buggy whip (from a farm supply store) with a ball or toy attached, and twirl it in a big circle for the dog to chase.

These activities are not only fun for your dog, but also good for your relationship. “Telling your dog to go to the hoop or A-frame during agility enhances your shared vocabulary and strengthens your overall connection,” Kremer said.

In the house

Finally, if you think inclement weather has to put the kibosh on exercise, think again, said Andrea Metcalf, a fitness expert in Chicago. She recommends:

  • Creating an obstacle course indoors and making use of boxes for jumping, balls for chasing, and stairs for climbing.
  • Playing hide-and-seek with your dog. “One of my sons holds the dog while the other hides the ball and then we run around together trying to find it,” she said.
  • Yoga for smaller dogs. Simply lie on your back and hold the dog above you, using your hands and bent knees to support the dog’s underarms and legs. Then, pull its front legs and drop your knees to extend its back legs alternately for a good stretch.

No matter what you do, experts agree, spicing things up a bit can make a difference in your dog’s overall health and disposition, Kremer said. After all, “a well-exercised and engaged dog is a content dog.” And that, he adds, is good for everyone.

Credit: Reviewed by Amy I. Attas, V.M.D.
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