Do you remember what your dog was like as a puppy? Our cute little beagle was full of energy, lots of running and playing. Of course there was also a bit of destroying things I loved, such as my favorite shoes, and our leather chair. At this early puppy stage in life, your sweet fur-baby was probably like mine and very active, usually wearing us out at our home.
As they get older, sometimes we relax on activities with our dogs. I have been guilty of letting her go in the back yard, rather than taking her on a walk. I’ve noticed that unless something catches her attention, such as a squirrel to run after, she does her business and wants back in. For most dogs, simply letting them outside a few times a day is not enough to keep them active and healthy.
The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) is an organization working to combat pet obesity so pets enjoy better lives. In their most recent 2016 survey on pet obesity, they found that 54 percent of all dogs are overweight or obese. What is startling is that this trend has increased every year since the organization began taking data in 2007. Further, the survey found pet parents of dogs do not agree with the overweight status. In fact, while 54 percent of the dogs are overweight, only 22 percent of the dog owners felt that their pets were actually overweight.
Dr. Ernie Ward, a veterinarian and board member of APOP writes in his blog post, “With increasing weights come increased weight-related disorders, especially osteoarthritis and Type 2 diabetes. It’s up to pet owners and veterinarians to reverse this trend and save our dogs and cats from suffering needlessly.”
With this in mind, here are some ideas to increase the activity level, for a healthier dog:
- Walks around the neighborhood
How long an ideal walk is depends on the dog’s breed and age. Active breeds need at least 30 minutes of activity and some will need up to two hours. This is tough to do because many of us simply don’t have that much time. Try splitting up walks into one in the morning and one in the evening. If you have a toy or small breed, they still need walks but not as long.
- Socialize at the dog park
Take your dog to the local dog park. Dogs are social animals and enjoy running with other dogs more so than on their own in the back yard. Plus, all the smells of other dogs that were before them add a heightened element of mental stimulation as they sniff around the dog park.
- Introduce new toys in the yard
On a nice hot summer day, bring a child’s pool out and fill it with water. Then watch as your dog enjoys jumping in and out of it and getting cooled off by the water. It will provide lots of jumping fun and most likely give you the gift of laughter as you watch. If you don’t have a pool, sprinklers work too if you can coax them into running through the water.
- Introduce new toys in the house
Most dogs love to fetch toys. Try getting a new squeaky toy for your dog to enjoy and play tug-of-war for indoor fun. This keeps your dog moving inside even when you can’t get outside. There are a tremendous amount of mental stimulation toys for dogs. If they don’t like the one you got, try something new until you find what they prefer.
- Yoga with your dog, or Doga
Have you noticed if you get on the floor, your dog wants to join you? So take advantage of this and let your dog stretch and move with you. A quick search on Google will find lots of entertaining YouTube videos of dogs doing yoga with their owners. Try not to watch the videos for too long so that you can actually participate in doga with your dog. Enjoy a laugh and getting down on the floor with your dog. You will both be more flexible!
Hopefully with these activities to get your dog moving more you will both have more energy and get a restful sleep at the end of the day. If you live by the rule that your dog should be tired as at the end of the day as you are, you will know you have succeeded in keeping your dog as active as they need to be.
If your dog lacks interest in exercise, consider an osteoarthritis evaluation. Check out this short quiz to learn more.