Dogs first befriended our hunter-gatherer ancestors and aided them in their journey through life and through evolution. Since then, four-legged buddies have stood by our side and carefully nurtured a friendship that continues to bring us good health and fitness, as well as abundant joy. Today, the once-ferocious hunter and guard has become a house pet, taking their place right beside our desk or on the couch. Much like the effect of the sedentary lifestyle on us, our dogs can also have problems like obesity, hip pain and hip dysplasia. A regular exercise routine and ample activities for dogs is key to battling this.
Studies have shown that the fitness levels of a human reflect that of their pet and vice versa. A research article published in PLOS ONE concludes that owners who spent more time exercising were more likely to ensure ample activity for their dogs. The human’s attitudes toward working out may be transferred to their outlook on their dog’s physical activity.
Understanding obesity in dogs
“Wondering how to know if your dog is obese? While touching the chest area, if you can feel the ribs easily, they are at the perfect body weight,” explains Dr Hitesh Bhardwaj, veterinary consultant, Crown Vet Hospital, Bengaluru. “If you are not able to palpate the ribs easily after pressing, that is, you can feel them but not after normal palpation, they are getting fat over the chest. It means they are leaning towards obesity.” Obesity in dogs is a major concern as it leads to hip pain, hip dysplasia and even increases the chances of diabetes.
Dr Bhardwaj adds, “If your dog is leaning towards obesity, they must exercise three to four times a day in 30-minute intervals.” So, grab the leash and water bottle before diving into the fun world of canine fitness. While the simplest way is to go for a jog with your dog in the park, there are multiple options to pick from.
What activities can you do with your dog?
Here are some fun activities for dogs:
• Walking and hiking: Taking your dog for regular walks or hikes is an excellent low-impact exercise. It also provides mental stimulation as they explore new scents and sights.
• Running and jogging: If you’re a runner, your dog can make a fantastic jogging partner. In healthy dogs, running can help maintain weight while improving cardiovascular health and muscle tone. It builds endurance and helps improve their mental health, too.
• Fetch: Playing fetch is a classic and fun way to get your dog moving. It hones their natural instincts and provides mental and physical stimulation.
• Agility training: Agility courses are not just for professional dogs — most dogs, irrespective of breed, gender and age, can benefit from it. It strengthens joints, improves coordination and endurance, and helps build lean muscle, thus avoiding obesity. Moreover, it can help shy dogs come out of their shell and become more confident.
• Swimming: Many dogs love to swim, and it’s a great full-body workout. In older dogs, it can help reduce inflammation and pain. It also strengthens joints and allows your canine companion to shed the extra calories. Just ensure they’re safe and supervised near water.
• Playing a game of tug: A friendly game of tug can provide exercise, especially for their neck and shoulder muscles. It works as a mental stimulant and works towards reinforcing boundaries and instilling impulse control.
• Obedience training: Training activities like sit, stay, and agility exercises can engage your dog’s mind and body.
Mental stimulation for dogs
It’s not just the body of our canine companions that requires exercise, their minds deserve a good workout, too. Mentally stimulating activities for dogs are akin to a captivating puzzle, a fun book, or a thrilling movie that plays in the theatre of their curiosity.
“For dogs and humans, just walking does not count as sufficient mental simulation,” highlights Dr Neha Menon, associate veterinarian at Supertails, Bangalore. “Mental stimulation is important. Physical exercises do not engage their mind much. While playing with a ball, searching or hunting for things, they utilize their senses, which provides crucial mental stimulation. Dogs do require ample physical exercise, but engaging their mind is just as essential.”
A bored dog can turn into a four-legged whirlwind of energy without an outlet and showcase a host of unwanted behaviors. Activities that stimulate the mind of dogs is key to channeling their enthusiasm. Dr Menon shares, “When we read, it is an exercise for the mind. The mind should be continually sharpened in humans and animals alike.” As dogs are often confined to the home, we need to make sure that they have ample mental stimulation.
For example, learning new tricks and engaging in interactive play capture your dog’s attention, strengthen your bond, and provide them with much-needed mental stimulation. You can also work on honing their natural instincts by allowing them to sniff and explore while on walks or runs. Navigating through an obstacle course designed to ignite their problem-solving skills or using puzzle toys can help them work toward a reward while keeping them happy and engaged.
- Obesity in dogs is a major cause of concern. It can lead to problems such as hip pain, hip dysplasia and heart health issues.
- A few activities you can do with your dog to exercise them include walking, jogging, playing fetch, swimming or simply visiting the dog park near you.
- A bored dog can be a mischievous one. Mental stimulation is the key to channeling their boundless enthusiasm.
- A few activities to stimulate their mind are obedience training and agility training and interactive play.