Alternatives to dog walking: different activities to keep your dog fit and healthy
The warm weather and long evenings of the summer months offer plenty of opportunities to get out and about with your dog.
However, rather than walking your dog down the same streets and paths as the rest of the year, why not take advantage of the summer to do something different?
Here are Petplan’s top alternatives to dog walking that can help keep your pet fit and stimulated...
Obstacle courses aren’t just for dog shows
Obstacle courses are a great way to give your dog some of the exercise they need, and to help keep them mentally stimulated.
Many places sell dog-appropriate obstacle course items such as weave poles and tunnels, but there are plenty of things you can do yourself without having to fork out for any new products.
A long piece of plywood held off the ground by some cinderblocks makes a great balance beam, while an old coffee table can be used as a ‘pause table’ as long as it’s stable, sits low to the ground and is safe for your dog to use.
Even if you’re not lucky enough to have a garden big enough to host your own obstacle course, then there are plenty of alternatives. Take your dog out for a jog in a wooded area and jump over fallen logs, go to the beach and clamber around the dunes – both of which not only keep your dog fit, but you as well.
However, as this is obviously more intense than a gentle evening stroll, make sure to enjoy these activities during the cooler times of the day such as mornings and evenings and that your dog has water available to help keep them cool.
Take your dog swimming
Unlike their feline friends, many dogs absolutely love water – as anyone who has ever seen their pet run off into the nearest pond will testify!
However, rather than just being a quick way to cool off on a hot day, swimming can be a central part of your pet’s keep fit routine.
There are a number of benefits of swimming versus more traditional activities like going for a walk. The extra resistance provided by the water means your pet will be working harder than normal which means they will burn fat and build muscle in a far more effective manner.
As always though, your pet’s safety and wellbeing should be your number one priority. Ensure you take your dog swimming in a safe environment.
Do your research and ensure that any ponds or rivers are suitable and free from dangers, while any open water swimming should only be undertaken where you are confident you know about risks including currents and tide times.
Hydrotherapy can be brilliant for older dogs
Water-based activities don’t just mean swimming – hydrotherapy is a great way for older dogs and others with joint or muscle problems to get safe and rewarding exercise.
There are many specialist facilities for dog hydrotherapy throughout the UK and an extensive list can be found on the Canine Hydrotherapy Association’s website. Hydrotherapy can help with a number of conditions, including:
- Age-related arthritis
- Paralysis and other mobility issues
- Balance and co-ordination problems
- General health and fitness
Hydrotherapy is also a great way to ensure your dog gets the exercise they need if you are unable to get out and about with them because of your own health issues. They will be taken care of by qualified professionals who will also be able to advise you on other exercises you can do away from the pool.
It’s hard to beat playing fetch with your dog
While it may not be as technologically advanced as hydrotherapy, playing fetch with your dog offers a host of benefits.
While it can often look a very simple game, a lot of dogs need to be trained properly to take part in this game as there are few ‘natural retrievers’. Ideally you will start playing with them when they are a young puppy, beginning by throwing a favourite toy of theirs just a few feet away and rewarding them when they bring it back to you.
Gradually you can increase the distance and, if they take to the game and enjoy it enough, you can eventually stop providing treats as the game will be reward enough.
Fetch is a brilliant way to help train your dog and also give them a good workout. Buying a tennis racquet or something similar to launch the toy a good distance means they can run and keep fit, while you can enjoy a gentle stroll.
What exercises do you do with your pet? Let us know of any great tips or things to do below…