Since the first installment of our “Spring Into Action” Blog, spring has really sprung! Foals have been born, horse show season is in full swing and a few tiny hummingbirds have even been spotted hovering around their sugar-water feeders. With more sunny days ahead and your dog’s clean bill of health in hand, you’ve probably started easing your canine companion into some of the outdoor activities we discussed last time—specifically walking, jogging and hiking. Ready to go a little further and move a little faster? Let’s go!
While this takes a little more effort to teach, it is an adventurous way for the high-energy dog to release a ton of energy very quickly. While you can’t bring your horse, along for this one, it may offer you more time at the barn with him. If you’re considering biking with your dog, the first step is to be sure that your dog is comfortable with that idea, too. Bring the bike into your home for a while and let your dog see it and sniff it. Next, begin wheeling it from room to room. Finally, take your dog for a walk while you wheel the bike next to him. Only once he is comfortable with the bike should you begin to teach him how to jog next to it as you ride. For added safety, consider investing in a hands-free leash attachment for your bike.
Rollerblading and skateboarding
Like biking, these options require a little bit of training first, but many high-energy dogs just love these fast-paced sports.
Once you lace up your blades or grab your board and venture out, resist the temptation to let your dog pull you along unless he is properly fitted in a harness. Until he is fully trained, you’ll also need to outfit your dog with a training collar. While the harness will prevent physical injury, your training collar will allow you to direct the dog until he can be under full voice control. It may look like fun with just a flat collar, but it’s safer for both of you if your dog participates in this sport as a team player, rather than the leader. Because most people generally roller blade in an area where they may encounter other skaters, always use the standard six-foot leash for this form of exercise so you can ensure your dog doesn’t get in other rollerbladers’ paths.
Believe it or not, it isn’t true that every dog is naturally inclined to fetch. Many dogs will either chase the object and then just leave it, grab it and run to engage you in a game of chase, or have absolutely no interest in the activity at all. If your dog is not naturally inclined to fetch, you can help him develop this drive or simply try an alternative form of play and exercise. For the game of fetch, try using a variety of balls and toys until you determine your dog’s favorite, and then reserve it just for together playtime.
Sorry, Frisbee fans. If your dog turns up his nose when you mention fetch, he probably won’t be interested in the Frisbee either. If, on the other hand, he loves to fetch, he will probably love to play Frisbee! Using a Frisbee made of cloth instead of plastic is preferable because it is less likely to cut his gums as he catches it. Many cloth Frisbees can be used on land and in water,and they’re packable for spur-of-the-moment play opportunities. They usually can be folded up to fit in your back pocket or your grooming bag.
Play dates and dog parks
Occasional playtime with another dog can be a fun release for your dog. Like horses, dogs receive immense mental benefit from time spent with their own species and, like us, develop close friendships. If you’re considering setting your dog up on a blind date, remember that dogs frequently do better meeting in motion and often do best with like-breeds, similar age, and opposite genders.
Let’s sum it up
Regardless of how much exercise they need, it’s important to follow these simple suggestions:
- Start slow.
- Begin with short distances and short sessions.
- As your dog builds up stamina, can gradually increase the pace and the distance, but always end when the dog is still eager to do more.
- Don’t exercise in very hot weather or on hot surfaces. Even though it’s spring, a few hot days tend to sneak in. Be aware that exercise on hot pavement is not only uncomfortable for your dog,but it can actually wear down his pads.
- Remember to bring clean water or know where you will have access to it.
- Vary the amount and type of exercise so you do not burn out your dog with repetition.
- Pay attention to your dog’s post-exercise behavior, watching for limping, symptoms of heat exposure, and other signs they have had more than enough. Even dogs in good shape need to be monitored and can benefit from supplemental care.
Whatever exercise activities you choose, have fun and enjoy all the benefits of a healthy, happy dog and an enjoyable, lifelong partnership!