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Fun Sports to Amp Up Your Dog’s Fitness Routine

September 23, 2015 by Tails Magazine in Featured, Wellness with 0 Comments

It’s National Dog Week—an entire week devoted to celebrating our four-legged friends and the joy they bring to our lives. We’ve teamed up with Beneful to bring you awesome content all week long that highlights our fabulous canine companions. Check back every day to join in our celebration, and scroll to the bottom of each post for a special coupon from Beneful. 

Long before our canine companions came to snuggle at the feet of our beds, they were born to work. Different breeds excelled at different types of jobs, but they all had one thing in common—an innate need to be active, physically and mentally.

These days, most dogs are more than happy to spend the day lounging in that sun spot on the living room floor and leaving the sheep herding to their peers. But despite their taking so well to more sedentary lifestyles, dogs still have a need for activity. Dogs who don’t get enough exercise release their energy in other, less positive ways, like hyperactivity and misdirected chewing. Those who do get daily exercise behave better, maintain healthier weights, and have better all-around health than those who do not. There are other benefits too—dog parents responded in Beneful’s National Dog Week survey* that their dogs are happiest when they’re active. The amount of daily exercise your dog needs depends on a few factors such as his breed and age, but experts suggest that between thirty minutes and two hours of activity per day is best.

Sick of strolling that same route around the neighborhood? These four activities will mix up your dog’s routine and help him burn off a ton of energy. And who knows, your pup may find a new favorite hobby.

Agility

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Image: usdaa.com

The basics: Dog agility can be done competitively or for fun, on obstacle courses with hoops and ramps and hurdles or simply with pillows and chairs in your living room. Dogs are guided through the course by their handler (you).

How to get started: Agility require a lot of activity from your dog, but it also requires her to be a stellar listener. If you think your dog might enjoy agility, start out by seeing how she does being guided through DIY courses at home. You can buy a dog agility kit and set it up in your backyard, or you can simply use the surfaces and obstacles that already exist in your home. Work on getting her to follow your voice through the course, using a bit of food motivation if she needs some extra incentive. If your dog really excels, consider entering the competition circuit. Visit the U.S. Dog Agility Association website for information on competitive agility.

Disc Dog

Image: DailyRepublic.com

Image: DailyRepublic.com

The basics: Perfect for the Frisbee fans of the canine world. You act as the “thrower” of your human/dog team, competing in distance catching and freestyle catching (a fancy term for catches with tricks thrown in).

How to get started: Like agility, disc dog is part of the competitive dog sport circuit but can easily be done to a less intense degree at home—all you need is a Frisbee and an open field where your dog can run off-leash. Start with distance catching, encouraging your dog to catch the disc with further and further tosses. It’s important to set your dog up to succeed—increase distance gradually and reward him plenty when he makes a good catch. If you’re feeling up to it, you can train your dog to do some freestyle catching as well; spins, hoops, and forward leg weaves are all popular disc dog tricks. For information on disc dog competitions, head over to the U.S. Disc Dog Nationals website.

Running

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The basics: Whether you’re already an experienced runner or you’re looking for some motivation for that Couch to 5K program you’ve been hearing about, nobody makes a better running buddy than your pooch.

How to get started: As with most dog sports, the key to safely starting a running routine is to do it gradually—just because your dog can run around the backyard in circles for twenty minutes doesn’t mean he can run a consistently paced mile around the track. Using a rope or nylon leash (no extendable leashes) and making sure your dog stays to the side of you and doesn’t run in front, start with a minute or two of running and over time increase steadily to the amount of time you desire, keeping in mind that your dog may top out at a distance that is shorter than you can go. Bring plenty of water and pay close attention to your dog’s cues while you run—if she’s lagging behind or refuses to keep going, listen to her and don’t push.

Canine Freestyle

Image: InquisitiveCanine.com

Image: InquisitiveCanine.com

The basics: Your dog is your best friend, so why not have him as your dance partner too? Canine freestyle, also referred to as musical canine freestyle or freestyle dance, combines dance, obedience, and tricks into a routine that is a lot harder than it looks. You can compete or you can just enjoy dancing the tango with Fluffy on your own time.

How to get started: In musical canine freestyle you and your dog are equal partners. Just like dances between two people, human and dog must respond to each others’ cues and movements and respond in turn. Four-footed dancers move differently than two-footed dancers, so think of moves that allow your dog to really show-off her agility and limberness, and through training, repetition, and lots of patience, you should be able to choreograph a routine that will exercise your pooch’s body and mind. Want to see if you’ve got what it takes against other dancing teams? Visit Canine-Freestyle.org.

***

To help celebrate one of dogs’ favorite tail-wagging activities during National Dog Week, dog owners can download a digital coupon for $3-off 13lb+ bags of Beneful dry dog food made with good-for-you ingredients like real meats and vitamin-rich veggies. For more ways to join in on the National Dog Week festivities, follow the Beneful team for daily celebrations and fun activities:

Facebook: Facebook.com/Beneful

Twitter: @Beneful

#NationalDogWeek #FriendsWithBeneful

*The 2015 Beneful National Dog Week Survey presents the findings of an online survey conducted September 10-13, 2015 among a sample of 425 U.S. adult dog owners, comprising 193 men and 232 women 18 years of age and older. Had this been a probability sample, the margin of error for a sample of this size is ± 7% at a 95% level of confidence.

 

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