By Dr. Ryan Ridgway from Southwest Mobile Pet Care
With summer in full swing and the kids on holidays from school, it’s a great time for your family to get active with your dog and try something new. While dog owners understand the importance of exercise for their pet’s health, many don’t understand the importance of mental stimulation on their pet’s behaviour.
For many active dogs, the answer to calming them down isn’t simply to give them more exercise – it usually helps as much to give them more mental stimulation to prevent boredom. There are many activities available for your family and dog, ranging from organized sports, such as agility, flyball and tracking trials, to things for just you and your dog such as running with sniffing breaks, and simply playing in the yard.
The following is a short list of activities you and your dog could try this summer:
- Agility– Essentially an obstacle course for your dog, Agility is a fun way to teach obedience and stimulate your dog’s mind while exercising. There are many clubs across Canada with classes and competitiveness ranging from beginner to International competitions. For more information or to find a club near you, visit the Agility Association of Canada’s website at www.aac.ca.
- Running– Done properly, running will help keep yourself and your dog in shape and your heart and mind healthy. To give your dog the most out of your run, intersperse stops for your dog to smell around to help keep their mind alert.
- Swimming – While not all dogs take to water, many do and swimming at a local lake or beach that allows dogs can be a great way to keep them active- particularly older dogs with early arthritis. Swimming is easier on their joints than running on dry land because there is less repetitive impact on the cartilage lining the joints. Before going swimming though, ask a local veterinarian if there are any waterborne diseases your dog could become sick from.
- Spray hoses & Sprinklers – Like swimming, some dogs may not like to be sprayed with water but if they do, having them chase the water from a hose or sprinkler can be an entertaining way for them to burn off some steam. It can also help keep them cool on those hot summer days that you can’t get to a lake.
- Tracking & Retrieving Field Trials – Teaching your dog to track and/or retrieve various items is a great way to give them the mental stimulation they need along with exercise. Tracking can be by scent or sight and can range from around home by yourself, to competitive trials.
- Flyball – Like an extreme version of fetch, Flyball is a team sport that involves racing over jumps to retrieve a ball. For more information, or to locate a club near you, visit the North American Flyball Association’s website at www.flyball.org.
While this list is by no means exhaustive, hopefully it gives you some ideas to get your family and your dog active this summer.