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Treading new ground

Dog Walking Reinvented

Is your dog tired of the same old routine? How can you keep things fresh as well as suitable for his needs? Aileen Scoular explores some clever adjustments you can make to keep your dog moving.

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Food for thought

Our dogs are just like us – they love stimulation and variety, particularly when it comes to exercise. So, if you’ve been walking the same route for too long or your dog’s joints are not quite what they used to be, why not ring the changes and give your canine companion’s exercise sessions a new lease of life?

Change your routine

Swap one long daily hike for two or three walks of 20 or 30 minutes each, taking a different route each time to keep your pet alert. Hilly paths, concrete pavements and pebbly surfaces can be difficult for dogs with arthritis or achy joints, so seek out grass or sand instead. If your dog finds it tricky to get in and out of the car, create a ramp from a sturdy plank of wood, covered with chicken wire to prevent him slipping.

Paddle power

Swimming is excellent exercise because it builds muscle without your dog having to bear his own weight. Using an extending lead, let your dog swim in shallow water, such as a lake or the sea, as long as you’re sure the water is clean and free from dangerous currents. You could also consider canine hydrotherapy – this is a controlled type of exercise in warm water, under supervision, that helps to ease arthritis or post-operative pain.

Feel your way

Massage is a lovely way to strengthen the bond between you and your dog, and it can improve the condition of your pet’s joints and muscle tissue at the same time. Start by gently flexing and stretching your dog’s legs while he’s at rest. More information can be found at the Institute of Complementary Animal Therapies.

Introduce a playmate

If your dog loves meeting new companions, teaming up with a friend who has a younger dog could give your walks a whole new sense of fun.

Play at home

Home makes a great playground! Tumble toys from the top of the stairs to the bottom, and climb up and down the stairs together. Or build an obstacle course in the garden – large cardboard boxes can be turned into tunnels, and you can create jumps of varying heights to leap over or wriggle under together. Old car tyres are useful, too – cut them in half to create low tunnels, or lay a few in a row and step in and out of them. Keep the treats handy and use plenty of praise and reward.

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