April is Canine Fitness Month!

Be it walks, runs or even a little swimming when the water warms, keeping your dog mentally and physically active will help burn off access energy and avoid boredom – and the associated issues that can result such as chewing on your favourite shoes! Getting into a regular routine of exercise and play will do wonders for your dog – and you too!

Here are some great tips to help keep your pooch happy and active!

  1. Go for a discovery walk – It’s not always how far you walk, but what you DO on that walk. Dogs love to explore, sniffing around almost anything to see who’s been there and to take in all the smells of their surroundings. Why not go for a 40 minute walk and let your dog spend as much time as she wants sniffing around a tree or whatever she wants – and let her choose where the walk goes! You may only get a block or two, but your dog will love it and be ready for a snooze when you get home. All that nose-work will be tiring!
  2. Break out the toys – Dogs love to play. Playing provides not only physical exercise, but it can also exercise their mind.  You can use a toy to reward a good “sit” or simply toss it across the yard and have him bring it back. Hiding treats under one of 3 or 4 upside-down buckets will get his detective skills going as he tries to figure out which bucket contains the treasure. Keep an assortment of toys and games on hand to keep things interesting!
  3. Take a training class – The RHS offers a variety of classes that are all based around play and reward. From the basics in our Foundation 101 class and Leash Reactivity, to Agility and Nosework, learning new skills not only provides excellent exercise and stimulation, it develops overall good behaviour and habits. You can check out all the classes on our dog training website.
  4. Play scent games – Hide some treats in a few boxes or containers around the room and encourage your dog to sniff them out. Make it easy at first by only loosely covering the treats so she learns the game. Gradually make it a little more challenging by changing the hiding places and more tightly closing the container to keep the game fun.
  5. Go for a run – Winters usually mean a lot of time spent on the couch while the snow and wind blow outside. Time to get outside! Going for a gentle run or jog will help both you and your pet shake off the winter blues. Start easy at first and gradually build up speed and distance at a pace you are both comfortable with. Be sure to have a solid harness and a leash no more than six feet long to keep everyone close and safe. Having some water for both of you is a good idea too. If running at night, be seen with clothing with reflective striping. Or,  why not attach a small light to your dogs collar for extra visibility? These are inexpensive and can purchased at most pet stores.
  6. Practice some old tricks – Has it been a while since you put in a good session of “sit”, “down” or “roll over”? Grab a few treats and review some old tricks and maybe even add a few new ones. There’s plenty of inspiration to be found with reward-based online videos or training classes.
  7. Challenge him with a puzzle toy – Instead of feeding your pet in her bowl, put her kibble in a puzzle toy. These games can be home-made or purchased, and usually allow you to hide kibble or treats under removable covers or sliding drawers. Others require your dog roll or manipulate the toy to release kibble.  Pets may not understand the game at first so be prepared to show them how it works so they don’t get frustrated.

Whatever activities you choose, be sure that they are ones both you and your pet enjoy. Remember, the goal is exercise and mental stimulation, but you want it to be fun too!