As noted in last week’s post, many people make resolutions for the New Year, and one of those is to get more exercise. Did you know our pets can help us with this endeavor? Dogs especially encourage people to be more active because most dogs also want to be active. From throwing Frisbees to pitching tennis balls, from walking to hiking, and from the kennel club arena to the backyard, there are many activities we can enjoy with our canine companions.
A person can even take a cat for a walk on a leash, and playing feather toys or chase the laser pointer can engage our feline friends – and make us humans move as well.
Because there are so many varied and enjoyable activities for dogs and their humans, this article will focus on those. Here’s a short list of ways humans and their dog friends can enjoy exercise together (some are event American Kennel Club – AKC – sanctioned events):
Agility: this exciting, fast-paced activity showcases a dog’s intelligence and stamina as well as its connection to its owner. Agility events happen throughout the world and many are AKC recognized events. Learn more, including tips for starting your dog in agility, at http://www.animalplanet.com/pets/10-tips-dog-agility-training/.
Dock Diving: one of the fastest growing sports for dogs, this event open to canines that are not AKC-registered (through the North American Diving Dogs program); however, the AKC does recognize this activity.
Flyball: this relay race for dogs features four dogs on a team. The sport began several decades ago and continues to be a canine activity enjoyed by many people and their animals. Learn more at https://flyballdogs.com/FAQ.html.
Freestyle Musical Dance: a relatively new sport, this activity involves obedience and dance, with the handler and dog performing dance-oriented footwork in time to music. Learn more at http://www.dogscandance.com/.
Obedience: All dogs should have some obedience training. How far you want to take it is up to you –competition in obedience trials or just a dog who will obey commands during daily life. Either way, you and your dog will enjoy the benefits of better communication and an increased bond. Learn more at http://www.pet360.com/dog/behavior-and-training/can-dog-training-save-your-poochs-life/Oi_m4yZ6_EKJV1xasL9h0w.
Skijoring: a team sport between handler and dog, this activity involves skiing by the person and running by the dog(s). The canine(s) needs to be obedient and the activity takes a lot of practice. Learn more at http://www.petguide.com/petcare/dog/need-to-know-tips-getting-started-in-skijoring/.
Tracking: this canine sport showcases a dog's natural ability to recognize and follow a scent; it’s the foundation of canine search and rescue work and involves training dogs to use their highly-developed sense of smell through which they find lost humans or animals and/or detect drugs, bombs, and other things. This is also an AKC-recognized event. Learn more at http://www.akc.org/events/tracking/.
Other activities include AKC Rally a course sport, Flying Disc Dog, by which a dog captures a disc or Frisbee-like object in the air, EarthDog tests, a way to assess and engage terriers and other digging dogs’ ability to find and trap quarry, and Field Trials, through which hunting breeds like pointers, setters, and retrievers find game. There are also a variety of harness activities, from carting to dogsled mushing.
One doesn’t have to participate in Kennel Club-offered events nor have a purebred, registered pup. For example, tracking can be done in your backyard or the local park, in which you hide a smelly object, like peanut butter treats in a ball or an article of clothing (like a mitten stuffed with peanut butter) and have your dog find it – this can be done in the snow for an even greater challenge! Also, you can set up agility equipment in your yard and simply run your dog through a course. Play Frisbee with your dog or take him/her skiing, hiking, or running. There are many ways to engage your furry friend in a fun activity that you both can enjoy – and you both will get exercise along the way!
Find more information on fun activities to enjoy with your pet at http://bestfriends.org/resources/fun-things-do-your-dog.
A New Year begins in a few days, and during this time many people make resolutions for better health. If you’re one of those who resolves steps to better health and if you’d like to not give your doctor as much money in 2017, here’s a simple solution: get a pet!
Did you know having a pet provides health benefits? Maybe not money-wise as far as many those insurance premiums, but certainly benefits in both physical and emotional health.
Various organizations, including the Center for Disease Control and other health groups, echo the physical and emotional health benefits that pets provide people. For example, having a dog increases your chances of getting physical exercise, such as walking, hiking, and stretching (think about when you throw the ball for Fido in a game of fetch).
Many studies show people with pets have lower cholesterol and triglycerides, lower blood pressure, and decreased stress. The simple act of petting a dog or cat helps us relax a bit. Pets can also decrease feelings of loneliness, fear and anxiety. Walking your dog can increase your socialization interactions, and pets in households with Alzheimer’s patients have been known to help those patients reduce their outbursts. People are less likely to suffer from depression if a pet or two resides in the home, and older people with pets enjoy better health both emotionally and physically.
Pets offer people many emotional and physical health benefits. Some animals can even help predict seizures, discover cancers, and alert people to low blood sugar attacks. Dogs and cats have been known to warn their owners of dangers, such as intruders and fire, and many have risked their own lives to protect or rescue their human companions. Pets give us their devotion and companionship, and we reap great benefits from their presence in our lives.
For more information on the emotional and physical benefits of pets, visit the following websites:
A sign hangs on my wall: “My Therapist Has a Wet Nose.” I bought the sign at a pet supply store a few years ago, and the saying is certainly true – in my house and in many other homes. My animals make great therapists – many pets do.
Research shows pets provide great health benefits to people. They can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and add years to our life. Experts tell us that pets help people who suffer from depression. The simple fact that our pets accept us for who we are, they love us unconditionally and are devoted companion, often waiting by the door for our return, makes us smile and builds our confidence and self-esteem. Dogs get us outdoors for fresh air and walks, and cats curl up in our laps and purr. All of these things and more are healthy benefits to people, both emotionally and physically.
People in nursing homes, hospitals, and hospice often feel weak, are in pain, and get discouraged. Many are lonely. Therapy pets raise their spirits, bringing smiles and joy into situations that can be sad and scary. Pet Partners, formally the Delta Society, and other groups certify pets and their owners for visiting these and other public places and studies show these animals provide great benefits to those whom they visit.
Although many people think of dogs when they envision pet therapy, dogs are not the only animals used for such work. Other animals, too, can be and are used in therapy situations; cats, bunnies, guinea pigs, even horses offer therapeutic value in various circumstances.
Unlike people with whom relationships can be complex, unpredictable, and stressful, animals are a great source of stability and companionship. Having a pet in one’s home can be calming and offer comfort when one is ill. Animals don’t change, and their loyalty to their owners and their ability to rebound from tough situations can be inspiring. The simple act of petting a dog or cat can lower blood pressure and bring a sense of calm to one’s spirit. Interacting with that pet in a playful manner can generate enjoyment and laughter. Even watching fish in a beautiful tank can bring about a sense of peace and an enjoyment of splendor through the colors of both the fish and the tank. And, don’t we all need a bit more tranquility, stability, and ability in our lives?
Pets are also a great source of comfort, especially for those affected by natural and other disasters. The K-9 Comfort Dogs from Lutheran Church Charities travel America to help quell the squall people experience after tornadoes, bombings, and other tragedies. Hugging a dog and allowing it to lick away tears of grief, fear, and anxiety brings comfort, and that's the job of the Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dogs – and many other such animal-human programs.
No matter what we’re experiencing, we find love, devotion, acceptance and comfort from the furry friends around us … and we can share that special beauty with others by being partners with our pets in helping those in our community and our country through therapy and comfort animal programs.
Have you hugged your pet today? Do so, and put some special pet therapy in your day!
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.