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.
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.