Obesity is a problem for many — including our pets.
According to VCA Animal Hospitals, about 25-30 percent of dogs in North America are obese. Obesity in dogs may increase the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, joint issues and more.
Fortunately, there’s at least one simple way to help keep your dog lean and healthy: exercise. Of course exercise for dogs comes in many forms — from a walk in the park to playing catch to getting a job done like working on a farm. Ultimately, the best kind of exercise is the kind that is fun for you and your dog.
(Note: If your dog has any health issues, check with your veterinarian to make sure the activity is safe.)
Here are a few ideas:
Take a Hike
One easy way to turn a regular walk into an adventure is by taking a hike with your dog. Of course, not all trails allow dogs, so check the guidelines at your local wilderness parks. Also make sure to have the appropriate supplies — including enough water for you and your dog, a mini first aid kit for both of you, and something to eat. If this is your first hike with your dog, start off with a short, easy one and increase the length over time. Keep track of the weather because dogs can overheat quickly.
Create an Obstacle Course
Agility is a popular sport for pets and their owners. Classes are easy to find but you can also create an obstacle course at home. There is plenty of equipment to choose from, including plastic tunnels, weave poles, balancing ramps and more. Figure out what your dog enjoys doing and create a custom course just for him. Remember to always start easy and let your dog work at his own pace.
Try Urban Mushing
For dogs that really want to work, some pet owners have found urban mushing to be a very active, working-dog type hobby. It takes the concept of dog sledding and adapts it to an urban, snow-less environment using carts, bikes, scooters and more. This is a very intense sport, so definitely get your veterinarian’s OK before trying it. Some regions have groups of pet owners who meet up for regular urban mushing activities.
Do Some Farm Work
Some pet owners live in areas with a lot of land where dogs can roam and keep active. But not all of us have that kind of space. But that’s OK, because there are classes that offer farm-type experiences for dogs who want to work. Herding lessons may include sheep, goats, geese and other livestock that dogs can help herd on a farm. This is not only physical work but can help dogs with herding instincts keep mentally engaged.
Go for a Swim
We all know swimming can be a fun form of exercise that’s easy on our joints. Fortunately, swimming is something your dog can do too. If you don’t have a pool, there are places that offer pools for dogs for both healing and fun. For dogs that aren’t as interested in swimming, physical therapy venues may offer underwater treadmill, which is just like what it sounds like — a treadmill that partially fills with water to offer your dog some joint-sparing exercise time.