Long periods of inactivity can negatively affect your pet’s physical and mental health, and lead to serious medical issues. Plus, it’s no fun for your furry pal if they don’t get to play each day. By engaging in daily exercise with your four-legged friend, you can both benefit from a boost in mental and physical health, and build a stronger bond. Without regular exercise and play, your pet may develop the following issues:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Separation anxiety
- Destructive behavior
Pets who become overweight or obese through poor diet and lack of exercise are also at higher risk for some cancers, making regular activity critical for a long and healthy life. To help your four-legged friend remain by your side longer through daily exercise, the following exhilarating games can encourage activity.
#1: Play hide and seek with your pet
While your dog is more likely to follow you from room to room, your cat probably prefers that you look for them, but you can encourage a rousing game of hide and seek, no matter your furry pal’s personality. If your dog will not wait for you to hide, ask a household member to hold them while you hide. Then, loudly call their name while you remain hidden with a pocketful of tasty treats. Your furry pal will hopefully sniff you out, but if they struggle, move to an easier location. As soon as your dog finds you, reward them with a treat or a quick game with their favorite toy.
Cats may be excellent at hide and seek, or they may let you hide all day without ever coming to find you, but if you keep plenty of tasty rewards on hand for when your cat finds you, they’ll soon be hunting you down.
#2: Create an obstacle course for your pet
Creating an indoor obstacle, or agility, course is the perfect activity for all seasons, and your cat can also join in the fun. You can easily design an agility course using items lying around your home, such as boxes, books, furniture, PVC pipes, curtain rods, and laundry baskets. Create jumps, obstacles, weave poles, tunnels, and more, starting simple, and working up to greater heights and more complicated maneuvers. To begin, lure your pet through the course with a favorite treat or toy. As they get the hang of navigating the course, work up to faster times, which makes this an excellent physical activity for you and your pet.
#3: Teach your pet a new trick
Learning—and performing—the same old tricks gets boring for you and your pet, so switch things up and create an entirely new training session. Search online for new skills, and then design a lesson plan, breaking the skill into small, manageable steps for your pet. Using positive reinforcement, teach your pet such talents as turning on a lightswitch, jumping a skipping rope, putting their toys away, or taking a bow. Train your pet in short sessions each day to avoid frustration, boredom, and inattention, and ensure you reward them each time they perform correctly.
#4: Play a nosework game with your pet
Nosework or scentwork games are great for pets, who have a much stronger sense of smell than people. Not only will these types of games encourage your pet to be more active, they will also stimulate their mind and enrich their daily life. Try hiding a strong-smelling treat under a cup, and then shifting two empty cups and the treat-hiding cup around in front of your pet, similar to the carnival trick. When your pet paws or nudges at the correct cup, reward them with the hidden treat. You can also hide treats around your home and teach your pet a “Find it” command to encourage them to sniff out their tasty rewards.
If your pet has been a couch potato this past winter, schedule a wellness exam before they jump into a rigorous exercise program. Our Liberty Veterinary Hospital veterinarian will evaluate your furry pal’s health, and also search for any underlying conditions, such as hypothyroidism or osteoarthritis, that may be contributing to their lack of motivation. Give our team a call to schedule an appointment, and then you and your pet can start your new physical activity routine.