Having a dog keeps you young, healthy and fit, so it’s important you strive to do the same for them. Some dogs are happy to lay around and live their best couch-potato lives, but most breeds require at least moderate physical exercise to avoid behavioral problems in your home. If your dog is high-energy, you need a strategy for managing the madness. Here are five activities you can do together for bonding, fitness and mental stimulation.
1. Agility Training
Agility is a sport that requires connection and coordination between dog and owner. You'll guide your hound through a series of challenging obstacle courses that include jumps, tunnels, weaves and more. The course allows your dog to mentally focus on your commands while performing strenuous physical exercise. Agility training is tough for dog and trainer, but it teaches obedience as well as discipline and serves to deepen the trust relationship your dog has with you. Plus, it’s a great workout.
If you’re as athletic as your dog and want a sport where you can both play, try hooking your pups up to a harness and let them lead your bicycle. This requires attention as well as energy, so take your red superfood supplement and focus on training your dog to run beside you as you ride. This activity isn’t suitable for all dogs, as some might be afraid or unpredictable, making the sport dangerous for both of you. However, it’s a great option if you’re not a runner, but Fido is. So, invest in a high-quality reflective harness and make sure your bike is in good working order before hitting the trails.
Hiking is a healthy activity for you and your dog, where you both can experience new sights and smells as you explore the great outdoors. Depending on the stretch of trail you take on, you may need to conduct some research and preparation ahead of time. Rocky terrain may mean your dog needs boots for safety, and a full-day hike may require an extra meal. Fill a backpack with water, snacks and emergency supplies for you and your pooch. There may be some spots along the way where your dog can run and play off-leash, but be mindful of other hikers. Additionally, talk to your vet about flea and tick prevention measures before you go.
Does your dog love water? Dock-diving may be just the sport for you. It’s exactly what it sounds like—your dog leaps from a dock into the water and the distance from the jump point to the splash is measured. The winner is the pooch with the longest jump. Competitions are a great place for you and Fido to meet like-minded friends and show off your teamwork skills. Just remember to exercise caution when you begin dock-diving training with your best friend. Only practice in safe, swimmer-friendly waters and invest in a life jacket for dogs, because your buddy may get tired, but neglect to mention it amid all the fun.
5. Puzzle Toys
Mental stimulation for dogs is equally important to physical exercise, especially for those who are highly intelligent, hyperactive or anxious. You can find several types of dog puzzles on Amazon, or you can make them yourself with household items. Try placing treats in muffin tins and covering them with tennis balls, letting your dog do the work to get the goodies. Or, build a wall with pillows and blankets and see what method your pup will use to get through or around it. Your dogs will find the challenge fun and tiring, meaning they won’t go digging for entertainment in your couch cushions.
Depending on the breed, size, age and temperament of your dog, the amount of activity required will vary. Ask your vet about appropriate exercise levels for your best buddy, and do your best to provide consistent activity to maintain health and happiness for you both.