After spending most of the winter months cooped up indoors, many of us will be looking forward to getting out and about with our four-legged friends this springtime. The longer warmer days are perfect for getting active and shedding some of those unwanted winter pounds, with pet health experts Bob Martin on hand to share a list of handy tips for getting active with your dog this spring.
Why is keeping your dog active important?
Regular exercise is essential for all dogs as it helps support not only their physical health but also their mental health too. According to the PDSA, fit and active dogs are far less likely to suffer from problems such as arthritis, obesity, and behavioural issues. Dog obesity in particular is a growing issue in the UK, as despite only 15% of owners admitting to being concerned about their pets’ weight, over 50% of UK dogs are actually overweight.
How much exercise does your dog need?
The amount of exercise your dog needs will depend on their age, breed, and general health. A less active, older, or overweight dog may need less exercise initially as you start to build up their stamina and fitness. A more active, younger or fitter dog may allow you to be a bit more ambitious from the get-go.
It’s equally important however not to over-exercise your dog, especially if they are a puppy. Whilst your dog is growing, it’s important to protect their developing joints by introducing them to exercise slowly, despite their enthusiasm and willingness to ‘go walkies’ at every possible opportunity.
Walks should be part of every dog’s daily routine to keep them physically and mentally healthy. A brisk walk is a great opportunity for your dog to burn off any excess energy, whereas a slower more leisurely walk can be more beneficial for their mental health. Allowing your dog to sniff and explore at their own pace allows them to stimulate their brain – this can often tire them out just as much as a good run would.
If you do want to go running with your dog, just make sure you introduce them to it slowly. Start with short bursts of gentle jogging throughout your normal walk, gradually building up to longer stretches. The same goes for hiking and cycling, where you should always take regular breaks and ensure you don’t push your dog too hard. Remember, your dog will instinctively try to keep up with you no matter how tired they are and they can’t ask you to slow down.
Top Tip – On warmer days (or longer treks) it’s important to offer your dog plenty of fresh drinking water to keep them hydrated.
Whilst we’re on the topic of water, swimming is a great option for dogs who like to take a dip. Swimming is easy on your dog’s joints and is increasingly being used as physiotherapy for dogs recovering from injury. Whether it’s in a pool, the sea, a river, or a lake, it’s important that you always follow water safety advice to keep your pooch safe.
It may seem obvious, but it’s best to avoid fast-flowing rivers or rough seas where the currents can cause your dog to get into trouble. Equally, areas of stagnant water like that in many canals can often provide health hazards for your dog. There could also be hidden rubbish and debris lurking under the water, which could also hurt or injure them.
Top Tip – Introduce your dog to water gradually and if they’re not keen, don’t force it on them. Perhaps start with a quick paddle in a stream to build up their confidence before taking the plunge into deeper waters.
Much like walking, playing should be part of every dog’s daily routine. While it doesn’t replace a good walk, playing can be a really simple but effective way of keeping your dog active and stimulated. The type of games your dog enjoys will likely depend on their breed and personality, with some dogs preferring to ‘chase and fetch’, whilst others may prefer ‘tug of war’ or ‘hide and seek’ type games.
If your dog does enjoy chase and fetch games, remember to avoid throwing sticks, as these can be dangerous and cause stick injuries. It’s always worth investing in a dog-safe toy for your outdoor rambles, as these injuries are more common than you might think.
Top Tip – Who says you can’t teach old dogs new tricks? Try incorporating reward-based training into your play to reinforce good behaviours and habits. This helps to keep older dogs stimulated too.
Agility or Flyball
For those more adventurous dog owners (or simply those inspired by watching Crufts on tv), you could always try your hand at an organised activity like Agility or Flyball. Agility is a fun way to exercise your dog, especially if they need a lot of mental stimulation. Training your dog to complete an obstacle course containing hurdles, tunnels, and seesaws is not only a great way to bond with your dog but is also a really good way of socialising them with other canine companions.
Flyball on the other hand involves your dog sprinting back and forth over a series of hurdles and retrieving a ball. A firm favourite with any fans of Crufts, this is a great sport for dogs with a lot of energy or an overactive brain.
Top Tip – These types of high-octane activities are often less suitable for larger or older dogs, so please ensure that you consult a vet before signing your four-legged friend up for a class.
We’ve talked about age quite a bit in this blog and it’s important to remember that time catches up with all of us. As we get older, a healthy lifestyle won’t always be enough and we sometimes need that extra bit of help from a cod liver oil capsule or a glucosamine tablet to help keep those joint mobile; the same goes for our four-legged friends.
Various nutritional supplements can be bought to essentially ‘supplement’ your dog’s diet, with Bob Martin’s sister brand Vetzyme offering a range of helpful products to support in the areas of Joints & Mobility, Calming & Anxiety, Health & wellbeing, and Skin & Coat.
How Do You Get Active With Your Dog?
Do you have any tips or tricks that you’ve found useful? Share them in the comments below.
Bob Martin can be found in pet aisles of all major supermarkets, pet specialists, and independent pet retailers, and is now available to order direct from bobmartin.co.uk.
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