Easy Tips for Urban Pet Fitness

Yes, just like you, your canine companion needs lots and lots of exercise.  According to Pat Miller, former president of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, dogs will most likely spend free time away from you, snoozing rather than running around exercising on their own. When dogs do run in the yard, it’s often in response to activity outside the yard, such as people walking past the fence or a visit from the mail carrier.  Many of us underestimate how much exercise really helps our furry friends in keeping weight down.

Dogs carrying even a few extra pounds are at greater risk for developing or intensifying a variety of health issues: cardiac disease; respiratory conditions; skin, hair, and coat issues; or compromised immune function – no fun for our best friends.

So, how can you help prevent your pooch from developing these nasty health problems when you live in an urban environment like San Francisco? How can my dog maintain a healthy exercise routine under when I have no backyard?

Lack of space for your pup to roam freely is no excuse for failing to get your dog panting, unless your dog has pre-existing medical conditions of course. When you’re strapped for time or if you don’t have a place where your pet can chase his or her own tail (without breaking every vase in the house) – Doggie Daycare is the perfect solution.  You can go away guilt free and your dog gets to do what dogs do best all day long. For those times when you are available to workout with your pup, here are some fun games, courtesy of Miller, that you and your beloved pal can play in the comfort of your very own home or backyard:

  1. FIND IT. – To play “Find It” you stand in front of your pooch and enthusiastically exclaim “Find it” as you throw a dog treat to your side. Once retrieved by your pup, repeat the action but throw the treat in the opposite direction.  Keep tossing the treats in different direction, and then you can make it more challenging.  Put your dog in a sit-stay while you place a treat in plain sight 5-10 feet away from him.  Return to his side and then tell him to “find it”.  Increase the difficulty of these hiding places, requiring you dog to have to sniff out the hidden treats, which is a workout in itself. Remember to start off each search with the phrase “Find It!”
  2. MAKING RECALLS FUN AND EXCITING. – Next time you beckon for your pup to come to you when called, make it exciting and a workout! To do this, you run away from your dog when you call him, encouraging him to run after you. Gradually increase your distance and speed. If you have multiple humans at your disposal, get everyone to separate around the house, the backyard, or your dog park and take turns calling your pet, rewarding your dog with a treat or a favorite toy!
  3.  TOY WITH A JACKPOT. – A simple way to teach your pup how to fetch! Using a “Jackpot Toy”, such as those found at www.cleanrun.com, toss the treat-filled toy at your dog’s feet. When your dog sniffs it, say “Yes!” and administer them a treat. After several repetitions, only administer the treat when your dog put his mouth on the treat. Then start tossing the toy a little further away and encourage your dog to pick it up before saying “Yes!” and feed him from the pouch. Before you know it, your pup will be fetching!
  4. TUG IS NOW HAILED POSITIVELY. – Once believed to encourage aggressive behavior, tug is now widely accepted as a great outlet for dogs that enjoy using their mouths in play. Do be sure to stress these three rules for your dog during tugging games; wait politely for an invitation to grab the toy, don’t put teeth on human skin or clothing, and let go of the tug toy upon request.

Get out there and play!

This blog entry was adapted from an article by Pat Miller, past president of the association of Pet Dog Trainers. Miller shares fun and innovative ideas to improve your dog’s exercise habits. Now get out there and get those tails wagging!