Summer has arrived and with it potentially the realisation that the corona lockdown offered (too) many reasons to spoil your dog a little extra. Maybe you negotiated some peace and quiet during important video meetings, by giving your dog a big bone on a daily basis. And you might have kept the walks shorter during the uncertain times of the last months. But now that vaccination rates go up, corona infections go down and the sun shines bright and warm, you might feel that it’s time to get your dog back in shape.
As this is a dog blog, we will focus on your furry friend. But if you want to get in shape as well – just tag along while your dog is getting fit.
It’s about good health
To get the serious stuff out of the way: We all know that obesity is a growing problem; not only for humans but also for our dogs. Getting your dog in shape is much more about good health than about good looks. Studies show that dogs with an ideal weight and a good fitness level live up to 2,5 years longer – and they have much fewer health problems.
And if this is not enough reason to get you and your dog off the couch, here is another motivating factor.
Exercise makes your dog stress-resistant
Regular exercise will not only keep dogs physically fit, but it also makes them more stress-resilient. A study from 2015 found that an increased amount of exercise was associated with lower levels of noise sensitivity, separation anxiety and other fearful behaviour.
Scientists assume that this is due to an increased serotonin production during exercise. Serotonin works as an antidepressant in dogs – as it also does in humans. So both you and your dog will feel the positive effects of your daily exercise.
While most of us know that getting in shape is good for us and our dogs – we often struggle to find the motivation to put on our walking shoes. Here, we have good news as well.
Get yourself in shape – Your own personal trainer
While some people pay lots of money to a personal trainer, you likely have one at home already. Who doesn’t want to go outside when we look into our dog’s expecting eyes as soon as we pick up the leash? And who cares about a little drizzle when we see our dog’s happily wagging tail?
Turn your daily walks from a chore into quality time with your dog. Leave your phone at home, focus on your dog and your surroundings and come up with fun things that make your time together special.
Get your dog in shape – Try something new!
Walking the same route day in and day out will be boring – for you and your dog.
Why not try a new route every few days? Just walk into a direction you usually don’t choose – and see where it leads you. If you get lost, great! Try to get your dog to help you find back home again.
Depending on your dog’s fitness level, you can also try new activities with your dog. What about running, hiking, biking or rollerblading? Start slow and consult your trusted veterinarian if your dog is older, overweight or has other health problems. By doing that you can be sure that your new, chosen activity is benefitting your dog’s health.
Get your dog in shape – Spice up your walks
While sniffing time is important for dogs, try to spice up some of your daily walks with some action.
If your dog is a ball lover, playing fetch is a good option. But you don’t necessarily need to bring anything (but treats) on your walk to have some fun.
Try the “Stop and run” game. Make your dog stay behind, run a few metres, stop and call him to you, so he can sprint towards you. Start with a short distance and increase it slowly to get more running time for your dog.
Another great option is the “Hide and seek” game. If you walk in an off-leash area and your dog knows the “stay” command, you can make your dog “stay” and find a good hiding spot. Then call your dog and let him/her find you. Start easy and make it more difficult if your dog enjoys the game.
If you cannot let your dog off the leash, bring a human friend on the walk and let them hide. Your dog will surely love to help you find the person. Proud tail wags guaranteed!
And who would not include a parkour game in your walk? Let your dog balance on a fallen tree trunk, jump over a small river or climb around on some rocks? Always choose activities that challenge your dog, but ensure that they are not too scary. The goal is to boost your dog’s self-confidence – and to train some new muscles and learn some balancing skills.
If you prefer to exercise together with others and your dog loves people and dogs, look for a local fitness class with your dog. From Bootcamps to Dog Yoga – you will for sure find something that is fun for you and your dog.
We hope you found some inspiration for how to get your dog and yourself in shape this year. And most importantly: To have a lot of fun together!
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