Sunday, March 18, 2012

Spring Into Exercise with Your Four-footed Friend

The end of winter is just around the corner as we've enjoyed some GLORIOUS warm, sunny days. As we look forward to warmer days, greening grass, and blooming flowers we can help our pets and ourselves become healthier and more rejuvenated by getting outdoors.

Exercise is as important for our pet’s health as it is for our own. Many dogs, especially those of the herding and hunting breeds, need activity to keep them both physically and emotionally healthy. Working dogs can get bored without a job. Activity stimulates their physical muscles and their mental abilities. For example, weaving through poles and running through tunnels in agility training engages a dog’s mind and body. Playing fetch or going swimming also stimulates the body and brain. Even walking and allowing your dog to explore the grasses and trees provides it with activity that stimulates the senses. Without exercise, a dog can become not just bored, but also destructive, chewing on furniture or digging up the yard.
Senior dogs may not need as much activity as younger ones or more active breeds, but they still need some exercise. Often, a simple walk around the neighborhood will suffice. Walking is great exercise for both human and animal, and partaking of spring’s flavorful sights and sounds stimulates the mind as well as the muscles in both you and your dog.

Perhaps running is more your sport. Many dogs, such as labs and border collies, also benefit from a jog or run. These types of dogs need more active exercise than a short walk around the block, and the companionship you’ll share on such an outing helps cement the dog-human bond. Hook your pet’s leash to your wrist and jog on out there!

Whether it’s an hour playing fetch, two hours on the agility course, or a short jaunt around the neighborhood, activity adds up to a more enjoyable day for your pooch – and for yourself!

Cats, too, need exercise. My mother would take her cat, J.J., on a walk around the house on a leash. J.J. enjoyed these strolls, hearing the birds sing and rolling around in the vegetable garden’s dirt. She and mom would sit together under the weeping birch, stretched out on the grass and simply enjoy the day. I, too, once had a kitty that walked well on a leash. I lived near a creek, and therefore, didn’t want her roaming beyond the back yard border. I could actually “tie her out” on a long lead near the lilac bush, and she would spend hours there, relishing the sights and smells of the blooming shrubs. Or, simply nap in the overgrown shade. Even indoors, a cat that’s provided toy mice and games of “catch-the-feather-on-the- fishing-pole-if-you-can!” enjoys the stimulation of her senses.

Spring officially arrives March 21. Cabin fever strikes us all, and the coming of spring helps alleviate some of that by providing extra daylight, extra sunshine, and extra-stimulating fragrances. Fresh air, warm sun, blooming flowers, and singing birds – the great outdoors is calling to our pets and us! Allow your dog some extra time in your fenced backyard to drink in the sights, smells, and feelings of the new season. Take kitty for a safe stroll around your house – many cats become very amenable to a leash and stay safe from passing cars or roaming dogs by being on one. Enjoy your furry friend’s company while outdoors this spring – you’ll both feel better for it!

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