Exercise is absolutely essential when it comes to pet care – it helps keep your dog to his or her optimum weight (thereby reducing the risk of health conditions and complications); it stimulates their mind; lets them burn off excess energy; keeps their joints and digestive systems active and gives them an opportunity to meet other dogs.
And the best bit? There are so many ways you can exercise with your pet and have fun at the same time.
Here are 10 brilliant ways to exercise with your pet, from traditional and playful to social and competitive, including some of the latest trends in pet exercise.
1. Walking or hiking with your pet
In a world in which we are too often fixed to our chairs and screens, walking our beloved pets is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Whether it’s a gentle stroll or a more adventurous hike, there are plenty of places you can go. Read this article for some of the best hiking and walking spots in Cape Town, KZN and Gauteng.
Make sure you are kitted out correctly to get the most of your adventure!
Invest in a well-fitting collar and lead – see our full range here.
Take water with you – the Olly & Max Collapsible Pet Travel Bowl is two silicone collapsible bowls in a zip-up waterproof bag. It’s perfect and convenient for any outdoor environment. Or you could share a bottle with your dog with this cleverly designed Leaf Folding Travel Water Bottle.
Be equipped to clean up
We love these Eco-friendly Poopbags for a few reasons: they are numbered from 15 to 1 so can tell when you have almost run out; they are perforated for easy tearing, leak-proof and made with up to 30% recyclable material.
Another handy accessory is the Alcott Essential Dog Waste Carrier which attaches to any dog leash to hold used and unused waste bags.
Keep some treats for a snack break – shop our healthy treats here.
Make sure your dog’s tick and flea treatment is up-to-date so they don’t pick up any nasty parasites while out having fun. See all tick and flea products here.
2. Head to the pool
If your dog loves swimming, is prone to injury or is ageing and has stiff joints, swimming can be a wonderful form of exercise for them. Find out if there is a dog aquatic centre in your area (this may well be linked to a dog hydrotherapy centre) or, for something a little more low-key, walk near a safe stream or dam (remembering to keep your dog’s fitness and safety in mind at all times. Water and currents can be dangerous).
3. Take up running
Not all dogs are suited to running, especially when it comes to long distances, but some absolutely love it! Speak to your vet and ask his or her advice in terms of the distance and pace recommended for your dog. It’s a wonderful way for you both to get outdoors and get fit together!
4. Play, play, play
Play is critical to a happy and healthy dog. Read this article for an in-depth look at the different types of play and how you can incorporate them into your everyday life. Taking time out of your busy day to connect and play with your beloved pet can be a very rewarding experience for you both.
5. Invest in toys that encourage exercise
There are so many great toys on the market that can stimulate your pet mentally and physically and get you and your dog out and about! Here are some of our favourites:
Durable chew balls that can also be stuffed with treats to keep your pet busy for longer, like this brilliant ball from All for Paws.
Fun bouncy balls like the Foaber Foam Rubber Bump Toy designed to bounce in all different directions.
Launch sticks to help throw the ball that much further during ‘fetch’ like this Tennis ball launch stick.
Frisbees discs like this one from Rogz or flying toys like the Zinger Rabbit from All for Paws.
6. Get social
Socialising is important for a dog to ‘learn to be a dog’ and goes a long way in helping them develop good behaviour. Dogs are naturally social and thrive on being around other playmates. Perhaps form a ‘play group’ of your own where you meet at the park, common or dog-friendly beach or look online for dog ‘play groups’ in your area. There are many recommended animal behaviourists who host regular ‘play groups’ of their own. Dogs socialising and playing together is a very healthy form of exercise.
7. Organised dog walk events
There are many dog walk events organised around the country in some great locations, which encourage dogs and their pet parents to meet and walk together. This is a great way of achieving exercise and socialising for both of you. To top it off, these events, like our own Absolute Pets Paws on the Promenade event in KZN, are in aid of animal welfare so the benefits far outreach just the day of fun and exercise.
8. Consider ‘dog sports’ or agility training
If you want to take your dog’s exercise to the next level, consider agility training or flyball – great for fitness and loads of fun! Your local vet, animal behaviourist or dog training school will be able to recommend the right course for you and your dog. High-energy, focused minds, a chance to meet like-minded dogs and their pet parents – getting involved in these sports can be an incredible experience and highly beneficial for your dog.
9. Consider puppy or dog yoga
Puppy and dog yoga is a new trend which is gaining popularity in the US, and we’re starting to see it pick up here in South Africa too. It’s worth researching whether there are any classes near you as dog yoga can help with stretching, flexibility, balance and body awareness, for both you and your dog. It often involves a little massage too.
10. Go to bootcamp with your dog
Another popular exercise programme in the US is bootcamp for you and your dog. There are several programmes like this popping up around South Africa (like this one in Durban) where you and your dog can train and get fit together. Sounds like fun, right?