We all need exercise, especially after celebrating the holidays, but did you know that includes your pet?  Fortunately, neither one of you has to suffer through a boring routine because there are many different ways to exercise your pet.

First, we are going to look at some reasons why it’s so important to provide your furry friend with enough physical activity.  Then we will give you some great exercise ideas for dogs and cats.  

Why Your Pet Needs Exercise

Movement is necessary for optimal health in both dogs and cats.  The reasons why are listed below.

Prevents Bad Behaviors

Pets who are unable to expend pent up energy are more likely to fall into bad habits.  Dogs might chew up your furniture, dig holes in your hard, scavenge your trash, or jump on your guests.  Cats could start scratching your furniture, acting rowdy and disruptive in the middle of the night, or biting animals and people. 

Strengthens Your Bond

Exercising your pet gives the two of you more time to spend together.  And the more time you have together, the closer you will be.

Increases Fitness

Your furry friend isn’t the only one who will be getting fit, especially if you have a dog.  Many forms of canine exercise involve your participation.  This will help you get into better shape.  And what better exercise buddy could you have?

Improves Health

Lack of exercise can lead to health problems.  Physical activity helps to prevent those problems from developing by improving heart, lung, joint, and circulatory health, as well as preventing weight gain and diabetes. 

Decreases Boredom

Physical activity breaks up the day for your pet.  Instead of being bored all day, your four-legged friend will have fun exercising with you.

Improves Social Skills

Some types of exercises for dogs will cause you to cross paths with other canines. This will give your pooch a chance to interact with other dogs.

How Much Exercise Does my Pet Need?

The answer to that question depends on several variables.  Consider the following.

Your Pet’s Age

Puppies and kittens have endless amounts of energy while senior pets are slowing down.  The general rule is, the younger the animal the more time should be spent playing and exercising.  

Although you need to provide your puppy or kitten with plenty of physical activity, be careful not to do anything that’s too intense for their still-developing bodies.  

And if your pet is older, don’t think that lets you off the hook!  Your aging animal still needs daily exercise in order to maintain the best health possible.  Just be sure to tailor the intensity and duration to your pet’s needs.

Your Pet’s Weight and Fitness Level

Exercising overweight animals will help them lose excess pounds, but getting in shape is a gradual process that can’t be rushed.  Start with slower, shorter sessions and steadily increase the intensity and length of each session as your furball’s fitness level increases.

Your Dog’s Breed

Dog breeds with short noses have trouble handling strenuous exercise due to their inability to breathe easily.  Some of these breeds include Boston Terriers, Pugs, and Shar Pei’s.  

On the other hand, some dog breeds have more energy and require intense physical activities that wear them out.

Exercise Ideas for Your Dog

Going for a walk is always a great way to exercise your canine, but there are many more activities you could try.  Just remember to choose activities that your dog really enjoys. No one likes being forced to participate in exercises that aren’t fun, and that includes your pup!   

Running

Taking a run around the neighborhood allows you and your canine to burn off energy while getting some fresh air.  However, this isn’t about preparing for your next marathon.  

Keep your dog first by allowing your pooch to stop and sniff, socialize with other dogs, and slow down when necessary.  

Flyball

If you like competing and your dog enjoys running and jumping, flyball might be the right sport for both of you.  Dogs are grouped into teams.  Each dog on each team must take a turn carrying a tennis ball while jumping through a course of hurdles.

Letting go of the ball or starting the course too soon results in penalties.  The group that completes the course in the shortest amount of time with the fewest penalties is the winning team.      

Agility

This is another competitive activity that your dog might enjoy.  It requires racing through a course of tunnels, weaving poles, jumps, and other obstacles.  

Keep it stress-free by limiting your dog’s agility experience to your backyard, or enter competitions where you can compete against other owners and their dogs.

Fetch

This traditional dog game is perfect if you don’t have time to train your dog to master more complex activities.  All you need is a tennis ball and some room for your dog to run after the ball.  

Just be careful to play the game in an open space where your dog is less likely to run into something.  Some dogs get so focused on the ball that they lose awareness of their surroundings.

Hike

When you are looking for a low-impact outing, take your dog for a hike.  Trying new trails gives your pup a change of scenery and the opportunity to explore.  

Dog Park

If your canine is properly socialized and gets along well with other dogs, an excursion to the nearest dog park might be just what your dog needs.  Dogs can rough and tumble with each other better than you ever could with your furry friend.  

Swimming 

If you have a pool or live near the beach, take your dog for a swim.  Throw a toy into the water and let your dog retrieve it. 

Sandbox

If you have an old Sandbox or Kiddie Pool, you can hide toys in the sand to promote digging in that area.

Hose Play

Chasing  water from hose or sprinkler is great tool to get your pet active and is a great way to help them keep cool during the hot weather. 

Exercise Ideas for Your Cat

Yes, there are ways you can encourage your cat to exercise.  Try the ideas listed below and stick with what your feline seems to like best.

Cat Wand

Use your cat’s hunting instinct to get your kitty moving.  This game requires a cat wand which is comprised of a toy that attaches to a stick by a hanging string.  

The toy might have feathers or streamers. Be careful to choose one that doesn’t have small parts that could be choking hazards.

Your job is to wave the toy around or drag it across the ground, making it look like prey.  Once your cat’s attention is on the toy, pull it further away.  This will entice your furball to chase after it.  

Just don’t forget to let your cat win.  Otherwise, your kitty will get frustrated, leading to a loss of interest and desire to play.

Try to squeeze in 10 minutes of this game at various times throughout the day.  Your cat will have a blast! 

Chasing After Balls

This is another game that relies on your cat’s hunting instincts.  Purchase a ball from the pet store that’s large enough to eliminate the possibility of your cat swallowing it.

Roll the ball around to get the game going.  Your cat will notice the strange object and get into hunting mode.  Get ready for your kitty to start running after and pouncing on the ball. 

Your cat might start batting the ball around which means you won’t have to keep rolling it yourself.  But don’t ever leave your cat alone with the ball.  Keeping an eye on your cat will ensure your beloved furball stays safe. 

Give Your Cat a Tree

Cat trees are loads of fun for felines. Cats love to jump on them and race through their built-in boxes and tunnels.   Encourage this activity by throwing toys on the tree while your cat is watching.   

Some cat trees even have scratching posts, which offers the additional benefit of giving your clawed friend something other than your furniture to scratch.

Play with a Laser

What cat doesn’t go crazy over lasers?  Shine the laser on the ground and keep it moving around as your cat chases it.  Just be careful to keep the beam out of your cat’s eyes. 

Jean Hofve, DVM, says that when playing this game, you should, “follow it up with a real toy the cat can catch to avoid fixation and frustration over never being able to catch the light beam.”

Change it Up

If you stick with the same toys, your cat will get bored and stop playing.  So, change things up every now then.  You don’t necessarily have to change the game. Just try rotating the toys.

For example, if your cat loves playing with a cat wand keep your kitty engaged by switching to a different wand that has a different toy.  Or if your cat enjoys chasing a ball, try swapping out the ball for a different kind of toy. 

Exercising your four-legged friend shouldn’t be a chore that you dread.  Instead, it should be a fun activity that you both look forward to.  

Find an activity that fits your pet’s unique needs and preferences and make it part of your daily routine.  Spending this special time with your fur baby will become the highlight of your day! 

 

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