Keeping your dog healthy with exercise and play

Exercise is essential for dogs, particularly if they spend much of their time indoors. Here are some handy suggestions to help keep your pooch physically and mentally sharp for years to come.

Keeping your dog healthy with exercise and play

Why exercise your faithful friend?

There are plenty of good reasons to ensure your dog gets plenty of exercise. Here are just a few of them:

  • Your house and garden will look better. Bored and lonely animals often take out their frustration by causing damage to their immediate surroundings.
  • You'll stay on better terms with your neighbours. A confined dog is an unhappy dog and behavioural problems such as excessive barking, aggression and possessiveness can be the result.
  • You'll find yourself becoming healthier, along with your pet. The reason? "Who wants to go for walkies?"
  • Your dog's nails won't need trimming. Walking your dog on hard surfaces will keep its nails at the correct length.

While providing your dog with exercise is a positive thing, avoid doing it in the heat of the day. Heatstroke is a real risk. Dogs rely on panting to release excess heat, but this cooling system isn't very efficient, particularly in very hot weather.

Consider organized activities for dogs

If your dog is very lively and has energy to spare, consider organized, competitive activities. You may find this a worthwhile extra expense as dogs are social animals who like being with others.

Consider the following options:

  • Obedience trials test retrieving over hurdles, obeying hand signals and scent discrimination.
  • Agility trials are timed events that direct your dog through a course made up of a variety of planks, tunnels, jumps and other obstacles.
  • Lure coursing is a sport for dogs that use their eyes, rather than their noses, for hunting. It involves chasing an object and is a fast and physically demanding sport in which speed, agility and stamina are tested.
  • Herding trials to train sheepdogs and cattle dogs may be available in your area. Check with breed societies and pet clubs.
  • Swimming gives dogs a great workout and doesn't cost a cent. Find out about dog-friendly swimming spots in your area.

Budget playthings

You don't need to buy expensive novelties for your dog. With a little imagination, you can make toys from everyday household items that will keep Fido just as happy, especially if you have a puppy.

  • Recycle a cardboard box. Cut holes in the top and sides large enough for your puppy to wriggle through. Throw in a couple of its favourite toys and watch it pop in and out of the box.
  • Give your teething puppy an old soccer ball to chew on. Let enough air out of the ball so that it can get a good grip on the leather.
  • Go with a classic. If you are outside with your dog in your yard or a park, it's difficult to go wrong with the simplest of playthings – a stick.

Whether it's a brisk walk, playing fetch with a ball or racing through an obstacle course, keeping your dog active will do it (and you) a world of good.

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