Dogs and cats were made to move. In the wild, they would spend a good portion of their day walking, trotting and running to pursue prey. There are very few obese wolves!
It seems that the pets who live the longest and suffer from the fewest health problems get plenty of exercise and fresh foods. Our current, primarily indoor lifestyle may contribute to health problems.
Some options for exercise (dogs):
-dog park (see handout for list)
-swimming, fetch float toys
-treadmill (yes! But only if supervised)
-agility training (obedience clubs)
-tracking training ( clubs)
-playing with other dogs in a fenced yard
Cats are much tougher. I have seen cats who would go for leash walks on a harness! As far as turning them out, you have to decide if the risks of traveling outdoors outweighs the benefits. Indoors, many cats will chase a cat toy, and some will even fetch.
If you’re both used to a fairly sedate lifestyle, set your goals low – maybe 2 short leash walks per week to start. Use your judgement; a pet who is out of shape shouldn’t go out for a 5 mile run, any more than a human in the same condition.
Ideally, your dog would get at least some running in, 5 days a week. Even older pets with sore joints will benefit from short (eg; less than 1 mile) leash walks 5-6 days per week.
Swimming is ideal for these dogs, as it is non-weight bearing.
Many people find that their young dog’s behavior problems lessen when he gets enough exercise. Dogs and cats are built to run, so a 1 mile leash walk for a young lab is basically a stretch!
One caution: large breed dogs under the age of 1&1/2 years should not be given long periods of exercise. Their joints need time to mature, so try to split up their play periods and walks into shorter ones.
If your own health does not allow you to get your dog out on a regular basis, hire a neighborhood teen or local jogger to take him out.
Your dog will say “thank you”!