It’s the start of a new year—a chance to reflect on all that’s happened in the last 12 months, and visualize what you want 2020 to look like.
For many people, that involves a new year’s resolution. If an active lifestyle is one of your goals, your pet may be able to join you. After all, staying fit—and avoiding the many health problems that can accompany extra body weight—is important for dogs and cats, too. You can do this by learning to stay active with your pet.
Adding some activity to your routine could be good for both you and your furry best friend—and having your pal with you can help provide extra motivation to meet your own resolutions. Here are a few ways to stay active with your pet this year…
Go for a walk
This option is best for dogs, and there are plenty of places to explore, including walking through your neighborhood on sidewalks, through a city park, or onto a wilderness trail.
If your pet is new to walking, start slow. Five- to ten-minute walks close to home are a realistic starting point for pets who are overweight or out of shape.
Then, as your pal becomes more comfortable, gradually increase the length of the walk. If they don’t want to walk further, don’t force them, especially if your pup is a couch potato and new to this type of exercise. If they walk too far without working up to it gradually, that could risk injury, exhaustion, or heat stroke (or frost bite in cold temperatures).
In the cold, keep your pet bundled up in a sweater or coat if needed, and consider non-slip dog booties to protect their paws and give them better traction. For warm weather, long walks may not be an option for some pets—including short-nosed breeds such as pugs and bulldogs, who are at a higher risk for heat stroke.
And even if the outdoor temperature is perfect—always closely monitor your buddy for signs over-exertion or slowing down. Be sure to bring along some water and a bowl for them to drink from, as well as bags to clean up any stool and keep walking paths clean.
Can cats walk too?
Of course, this activity is primarily for dogs. But, it can also be an option for some cats. If your kitty gets scared by new people and places, then they’re probably not a good fit. However, if your cat isn’t shy and likes to explore, they might be a candidate. Just be sure they have a harness that fits well (cats are good at slipping out of harnesses, and you don’t want your pal to get lost), and try to avoid areas that are frequented by dogs as they may find it hard to resist chasing your cat.
Alternatively, take your cat on a leash in the backyard and walk some laps around the yard with them as they explore.
Jogging or running
If your dog is an athletic type who has a lot of energy to expend, they may enjoy jogging or even running with you. In that case, follow the same rules of walking—start gradually, then work your way up to longer jogs, always being mindful of how much is too much for your furry friend and paying attention to hot or cold weather considerations.
Doga (dog yoga) is now offered at some yoga studios. It’s basically a partner yoga practice that you and your furry friend can attend together, with a focus on gentle stretching, plus massage or meditation. This may be a good option for senior pooches who can’t handle more strenuous exercises.
If you have a pool at home—or one nearby that allows dogs—this may be a good option. It’s a low-impact workout for both of you.
Keep in mind, not all dogs know how to swim, and some may like swimming while others hate it. If your pup does enjoy the water, be sure to only allow them in the pool under supervision—that way they can stay safe, and you can enjoy the quality time together.
Games such as hide-and-seek
Many pets will enjoy this fun quality time with you. It may take a little while to train your pal, so be patient. Start by hiding and calling them, then allowing them to find you. Offer plenty of praise when they do. Over time, they may catch on and enjoy the search.
Hide-and-seek works well for dogs, but some cats may enjoy it, too. Many cats will also enjoy a good game of “chase.” Try walking or jogging around the house holding a string toy, while your cat chases after you.
Be sure to only use string toys under supervision, since a swallowed string toy can require a surgery to remove.
Playing fetch or frisbee
Throw a toy and have your dog chase it and bring it back. You’ll get an upper body workout because of all the throws. Also, you can keep yourself active by running with your pet a few times—they’ll probably love the extra attention and energy that comes when you participate, too.
Cats also like this game—try rolling a toy across the floor to see if they’ll chase it and pounce on it. Most likely your kitty won’t bring the toy back, so you’ll get exercise by fetching it for them.
Many dogs love a good game of tug, and it can act as a form of resistance training for both of you.
Bonus: Staying mentally active
Keeping your body active and fit is good for your physical health—but, it’s also important to consider stamina and flexibility when it comes to your mental health!
Your furry buddy can also benefit from keeping their mind active, as it prevents boredom and leads to a calmer, happier, well-rounded pet.
For yourself, when considering new year’s resolutions, you might be interested in tasks such as learning to play the guitar or learning to speak a foreign language. For your pet, mental stimulation may include novelty and puzzles. Here are some examples…
- Introduce new toys and new things to explore. It doesn’t have to be expensive, either—often, a cardboard box may end up being the most popular toy in the home! Also, don’t forget new smells and tastes, such as catnip or pheromone products.
- Try a puzzle feeder. This is a toy that requires your pal to use their mind to figure out how to roll a ball or move a panel to get to a treat inside the feeder.
- For cats, try hiding some of their food in different spots around the home. That encourages them to “hunt” for their food, like they would in the wild. Just be sure they are finding it and aren’t left hungry!
- Train your pet. Many dogs and cats enjoy training, because of the mental stimulation and bonding time. You can do just the basics—like “sit” and “stay”—or consider advanced training and tricks.
If you keep up with the new activities during the year, over time you’ll learn what your pal enjoys best. Your and your furry friend will benefit from the active lifestyle—and most importantly, you’ll get more special bonding time together.