January 19, 2022 Wellness

Tips for Exercising Your Dog and Cat

Dog exercising

Tips for Exercising Your Dog and Cat

Many of us look at the new year as an opportunity to improve our health. Pet owners should consider the same for their pets. To help you get 2022 off on the right paw, I am devoting January’s blog posts to healthy living suggestions for pets. Last week’s blog post focused on choosing a healthy diet for your pet. Exercise is another important aspect of keeping our pets healthy, and this week’s post covers my tips for exercise in dogs and cats. 

Say what? Exercise my cat?

Cats exercising on a cat tower

For many cat owners, the term “exercise” is an oxymoron. But you can take advantage of your cat’s normal behavior to successfully increase the amount they exercise. My current foster kitten is a perfect example. Halifax is very energetic right before mealtime. I can use this time to throw mousies, balls or use the feather fishing pole to get her to run around and burn a few extra calories. She is quite the huntress and I often throw toys into an empty paper bag on the floor so she can “hunt” them. Another hunting suggestion: divide your cat’s daily ration into small portions and hide it around the house. This makes cats work for their food, as they are biologically inclined to do. Cats naturally like to climb, and you can increase their exercise by setting up a cat tree for them. 

Exercising the Dog

Unlike cats, who can exercise independently, exercising the dog requires your participation. In fact, when I searched a scientific search engine for the keywords “dog AND exercise,” nearly all of the articles were about the health benefits dogs provide to their humans. To reap the health benefits of having a dog, first you need to lace up your shoes and head outdoors. A perfect time to take your dog for a walk is when your dog begins to pester you for food between mealtimes. If your dog begs for food between meals, it may not be the food your dog really wants but the attention you give your dog when heading to the kitchen to service up a midafternoon snack. A nice walk plus a game of fetch in a nearby park may take your dog’s mind off food.  

Because dogs interact with their environment through their sense of smell, they often want to sniff every tree and fire hydrant. This results in a leisurely stroll, not a brisk walk. If you are looking for exercise, then try a no pull harness to focus your dog’s attention on the walk, not the next tree or hydrant. Here is a recommendation from a professional dog trainer. The trainer, Annie Grossman, was featured in a recent Usdan event – Home Alone: Helping Dogs Adjust as We Return to the Office.  

A total of 30 minutes a day of brisk walking is a good start for most dogs. But if you have a couch potato dog, be sure to start with 10 minutes and work up to 30 minutes. Overdoing exercise when your dog is out of shape may result in injuries that will derail your exercise plan. 

Move Joyfully With Your Pet

Dogs and cats are masters of joyful movement, which is defined as a way of approaching physical activity that emphasizes pleasure. If you doubt my assessment, just watch the video of kittens playing with a bedsheet!  

Pure joy. To me, joyful movement is the opposite of obligatory daily exercise, which can be a grind. Since pets are good at joyful movement, incorporate your pet in your daily exercise routine by walking together on errands, hiking, or using the stairs instead of taking the elevator. Your pet can make any activity more fun. 

Senior Pets and Arthritis 

If your pet is an older couch potato, and you’ve attributed this inactivity to “slowing down with age,” consult with your veterinarian. Many older dogs and cats suffer from arthritis. During your pet’s next annual examination, talk with your veterinarian about your pet’s inactivity. Managing arthritis pain can revolutionize some pets’ lives by restoring their mobility and reinvigorating their capacity for joyful movement.  

Tags: arthritis, cats, dog walking, dogs, exercise, joyful movement, play, walking the dog, wellness,

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