(BPT) - Face it, getting enough exercise is tough for everyone, and it's certainly true when it comes to our pets. The amount of exercise your dog may need varies, depending on the age, size and breed, but most dogs need more exercise than they're getting, especially during the colder months when we all prefer to stay indoors. Consult your veterinarian for guidelines about how much exercise your dog should be getting to stay in top condition, then make a plan to add more pep to your dog's step.
Dr. Jeff Weber, Emmy award-winning celebrity veterinarian, says that play and exercise are key to keeping our four-legged friends healthy: "Just like humans, there is a strong correlation to obesity in pets when they eat more and exercise less. In fact, it has been estimated that up to 50 percent of dogs and cats in this country are overweight or, worse yet, obese. It's important to get your pet up and moving."
What are the best ways to keep your pup — and you — active and moving?
1. Vary your walking route
When you're walking your dog, switch up the route now and then to keep it more interesting for both of you. Work on adding a few minutes or a couple of extra blocks to your walk any chance you get, and you’ll both benefit from the extra steps.
2. Pick up the pace
Rather than just taking a leisurely stroll, walk with purpose, like you’re trying to get somewhere. This will make it a more heart-healthy workout for the both of you. Ease into it slowly, trying 5 minutes quicker, followed by 5 minutes slower, until you both get used to the faster pace. Enlist different family members to join you or take turns at the walks to vary the walking pace your dog experiences.
3. Bring friends along
You’re more likely to enjoy and stick with regular walking dates if you can make some of your walks into a social occasion, whether your friends also have dogs or not. Instead of meeting someone for coffee or drinks, meet up with them for a walk-and-talk with your dogs.
4. Make time for active play
In addition to walking every day, mix it up! Spend a little extra time encouraging active play like a good game of fetch with your dog. You can play fetch at a nearby park or right in your yard, if you have enough space for your dog to run around. Not good at throwing? No worries — a toy like Chuckit! launcher from Petmate can keep your dog engaged and excited to run and fetch for a lively, active play session that will be fun for both of you.
"Fetch play is a terrific way to increase stamina and keep your pup in shape,” says Weber.
The interactive game of fetch encourages healthy movement and cardiovascular endurance for pets and pet owners, especially as active play and movement declines when the weather gets colder. Fetch is also an effective way to help train and develop positive behavior in puppies or newly adopted four-legged family members.
5. Exercise their brains
Create an obstacle course in your yard or use puzzle games to help keep your dogs mentally active — which can relieve boredom for dogs who spend time alone.
Research your dog's breed to discover what stimulus they are most likely to respond to, so you can find new toys and activities your dog will love. Examples might be hide-and-seek games, having them use their sense of smell to find treats or chasing (non-toxic) bubbles.
Spending time playing with your dog is not only fun and a terrific stress-reliever for both of you, but it also strengthens the human-pet bond. Give your pet healthy exercise that every dog needs and your furry friend will be happier, too.