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Give Your Dog Challenges

While exercise needs are entirely individual for every dog, canines in general reap benefits from being efficiently tired out, and the best kind of workout for them is one that engages their minds and their bodies.

Many pet parents don’t think about activity levels too much, and they aren’t very attuned to what’s adequate or appropriate for their dogs. Far too frequently they fall into a pattern of walking their dog around the neighborhood twice or three times a day with a little fetch time tossed in here and there. Do your dog a favor by finding ways to challenge his mind and body—sooner rather than later.

First, what kind of dog do you have? Is he a low-level couch potato or a jumpy bundle of nerves?

Low-energy dogs might include seniors, a dog recovering from surgery, or pooches that need to be on restricted exercise regimen for another reason. For these dogs, a nice walk around the neighborhood can be physically enough, but to maximize these jaunts, let your dog embark on “sniffy walks.” On these strolls, your dog gets to sniff anything his nose desires and thus he uses a little more of his mind through all that smelling. You can incorporate a command like “go sniff” to encourage your dog to get more involved with—or more serious about—this sniffing exercise. You can take sniffy walks inside, too: Create a basic DIY puzzle toy to challenge his indoor nose talents by placing gift bag paper and treats in a box and then let him suss out the yummies tucked within.

Training a new trick or working on basic obedience commands inside or outside are additional ways to get your pup more physically and mentally involved, and it works for quiet and active dogs. Think of it as exercise with homework.

There are, or course, many, many mental-physical options available for high-energy dogs to stimulate mind and body: dog play dates, hiking, swimming, fetching, biking (you ride while the dog jogs aside, unless you’re really up for jogging, too), flirt pole, dog sports, etc. Do enough, and your furry wild child will be snoozin’ away once he’s back home.

Flirt poles, by the way, are great to use with dogs exhibiting high prey drive. It’s also a good tool to use for dogs that need review on their impulse control. A flirt pole is like a fishing pole but with a toy tied on at the end. You essentially cast the toy, teasing your dog to chase it as if it’s prey. You can maximize this exercise by adding commands while you are playing (“wait/leave it” while chasing to improve impulse control; “drop” when they do catch it, etc).

High-energy dogs are good candidates for other dog sports like agility, obedience, rally, barn hunt, nose work, and flyball. In addition to working the dog’s body and mind, the sports will also allow you and your dog to build upon your bond and have fun together.

The most important thing about an exercise regimen is understanding the dog in front of you. Accentuate what he enjoys doing, try a few options, and make them a bit more interesting, and the two of you will settle into a pleasurable and dynamic way of interacting.

When considering new ways to get your pet going, first consult with your veterinarian to ensure your dog is healthy enough to undertake such an activity, because age, breed, and ailments play into what’s best for your dog.

 Angie Allen is the owner of For Sniffs and Giggles in San Carlos. Like most pet professionals, she has always had a passion for dogs. That passion took her to her first pet-care job, a doggie day care where she found herself wondering how she could make the most of each dog’s stay. She decided to open up her own unique dog walking and pet sitting company two years ago. Her goal is to meet each individual pet’s needs, from a walk around the block for an elderly Chihuahua to a tailored small playgroup and flirt pole session for a high-energy adolescent Vizsla.

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