Canine obesity is nothing to laugh about. When dogs become overweight, they can suffer permanent damage to their joints, heart, and overall health. That’s why it’s essential to keep your pup in excellent shape, even if the weather outside is less-than-favorable.
Let’s explore why dogs become overweight, why it’s vital to keep them at a healthy weight, the best ways to exercise your dog, all year round!
What Causes Dogs to Become Overweight?
There are several factors to consider when questioning how or why your dog has gained an unhealthy amount of weight. Some breeds are naturally heavier than others, and diet and age can both play significant roles in weight gain.
The most common causes of canine obesity include:
- A diet rich in fat and low in protein
- A sedentary lifestyle
- Old age
- A genetic predisposition to weight gain
- Neutering or spaying
A veterinarian will be able to help you discern how healthy your hound’s weight is. However, most owners will be able to determine whether their dog is under or overweight simply by looking at them and observing their health habits.
Regular exercise can help prevent excess weight gain and may help dogs experience a longer, more enjoyable life. Even breeds that are predisposed to gaining lots of weight could benefit from consistent, thoughtful exercise.
Benefits of Daily Exercise With Your Dog
Daily exercise not only benefits your pup, but it could also change your life for the better as well. There are plenty of positive, long-lasting benefits associated with daily exercise with a dog. Increased circulation, improved energy levels, and a positive mood are just a few of these benefits.
Dogs crave a little routine and comfort and adding a few daily walks into your routine can help your pup feel more connected, needed, and loved. Most dogs sincerely enjoy exploring their local outdoor surroundings and will benefit mentally and physically from daily walks.
When weather prevents owners from walking their dogs, they can decide to implement helpful tools and toys to keep their dogs healthy and happy. Interactive toys, treat-dispensing gadgets, and self-play activities can keep indoor puppies from becoming sedentary or overweight.
To help you choose the right toys and activities for you and your pup, let’s take a closer look at some of the best outdoor and indoor exercises for dogs.
Best Outdoor Exercises
If the weather is great and you feel safe to go outside with your dog, there are several outdoor activities and exercises you can explore together. Going for a walk is perhaps the most common and easy-to-due activity, but it’s not the only one.
When you’re ready to head outside with your dog, you could decide to:
- Going to the Dog Park
Depending on how much time you have to spare, what your preferences are, and your dog’s activity level, some of these options may be more beneficial than others.
For example, small dogs may not fare well on long hikes, but they could enjoy a few hours at a local dog park. The best way to determine which activities are right for you and your dog is to familiarize yourself with them and try them out for yourself.
If you’re short on time, going for a walk may be the best option. Simple and straightforward, most dog owners can safely go for a 15- to 30-minute walk with their pup without wandering too far from home.
Always plan your route before walking with your dog. If possible, avoid unlit streets or alleyways. Be sure to bring essential safety gear with you, especially if going for a walk during the evening hours.
It may also be a good idea to outfit yourself and your pup in some reflective gear. This may help drivers and other pedestrians spot you more clearly and quickly. Some breeds require several walks per day, while others may be satisfied with a single daily outing.
If you own an active, medium-sized breed, you may also want to consider scheduling a weekly hike for you and your pup. Not only will this help your dog shed any excess energy built-up throughout the week, but it could also help you enjoy some fresh air and sunshine.
Indoor Exercises for Dogs
When it’s raining cats and dogs outside, you can enjoy the comfort and security of a little indoor exercise and play. You don’t have to dole out hundreds of dollars on hi-tech gadgets and toys to keep your dog fit and happy while stuck inside.
Many of the best indoor exercises for dogs rely more on your sense of creativity and fun than they do the depth of your wallet. For example, owners might find themselves spending hours playing hide and seek with their dog.
Getting down on the rug for a quick wrestling match is also an excellent, heart-pounding option. Of course, you could also choose to employ a few pre-existing toys into the mix to keep things interesting.
Hide and Seek
Playing hide and seek with your dog is easy to do, and a ton of fun. You can provide your dog with a tasty treat, then quietly slink away into another room. Be sure to be as sly and sneaky as you can, or your pup may catch on to your ruse.
Hide as quickly as you can, then wait for your pup to come search for you. When they find you, be sure to reward them with another treat. It may take a while for your dog to begin hiding on their own, but you can begin to condition them to this behavior by giving them more treats. Just be sure to choose healthy treat options.
Bubbles are inexpensive, easy to work with, and incredibly exciting for almost any dog. When you blow bubbles toward a hound’s face, they excitedly bark or attempt to eat the bubble. If you’re interested in using bubbles for indoor exercise, you may want to consider a bubble blower.
High-powered bubble guns are also an excellent alternative to traditional dip-and-blow bubbles. You could run across your home with a stream of bubbles, and one happy dog, following behind you. That’s some spectacular exercise for both you and your furry friend.
While this activity may not work for very small breeds or the largest breeds, most dog owners can safely and enjoyably wrestle with their dog while indoors. Be sure to choose an area that is free of any obstructions or obstacles, then let loose!
This indoor activity is well-suited to dogs that are already trained to never bite or attack humans. If you’re still in the process of training your dog, you may want to hold off on a wrestling match. Toys, however, are perfectly suitable for roughhousing.
If you’re not cycling your dog’s toys, now is the time to get started. Allowing your dog to have full access to all of their toys, at all times, can be a bad idea. Dogs can get bored with toys they’ve seen every day, resulting in a feeling of depression.
You can keep your toy time interesting and exciting by hiding the majority of your dog’s toys, allowing only a handful to be available at any given time. Every week or a few days or so, you can replace the current set with a few hidden alternatives.
This process will help to keep your dog engaged and ready to play, even after days of being stuck indoors. It may also help to prolong the life of your hound’s playthings.
Toys and Activities to Keep Dogs Fit
There are thousands of dog toys available, but they’re not equally safe or fun. Finding the right toys for your pup can prove to be a real challenge if you’re not aware of which features to look for, or which ones to avoid.
Generally, there are five types of dog toys that owners can choose from. They are:
- Teething Toys
- Comfort Toys
- Self-Play Toys
- Interactive Toys
- Treat Dispensers
By purchasing and using a variety of toys, you can keep your dog interested and content. However, it’s also important to get toys that work well for your puppy’s temperament, activity level, and personality. It’s also important to invest in toys that are safe to chew on.
The first toys that most dogs find a fondness for are teething toys. These chew-able ropes, bones, and squeaker help in basic training. However, some are generally good to have around well past the puppy stage, as gum massage can help your dog find relief from dental aches and pains.
Teething toys, also called chew toys, vary in material, size, and shape. However, their primary purpose is consistent: Be resilient and safe to munch on.
For this reason, many teething toys consist of woven ropes, hard rubber shapes, and tennis balls. Your veterinarian can help you choose the right teething toys for your dog.
While dogs are known for the comfort they can provide their owners, they’re also often in need of a little comfort and reassurance themselves. Many dog parents furnish their pup’s kennel or sleeping area with soft blankets and plush toys.
These comforting materials and objects make all the difference when it comes to self-soothing habits. Dogs that don’t have access to cuddle-worthy toys and blankets may experience excess stress during the night or while owners are out of the house.
Self-play toys are sometimes called interactive toys. Their primary purpose is to keep your dogs entertained and engaged while you’re away. Treat mazes, treat-dispensing balls, and laser-based gadgets are all examples of popular self-play toys for pups.
Any toy that allows you to play directly with your dog could be considered an interactive toy. Tuggable ropes, balls, and throwable plastic discs are all examples of interactive dog toys.
Because these objects are designed with human use in mind, they’re often made of materials that aren’t safe for unsupervised doggie playtime. Consequently, it’s crucial that owners restrict access to these types of playthings.
Treat-dispensing toys can also be chew toys. Treat dispensers designed for dogs tend to be durable and safe to chew on, making it easy for pups to roll or lick the treat from the inside of the toy.
Some treat-dispensing toys are also self-play activities. Mazes and other types of treat-based toys can activate your pup’s natural curiosity and desire to hunt. This type of toy could also be filled with regular dog food to help some dogs lose weight over time.
Exercise for Older Dogs
The age at which your dog officially becomes a senior depends on their breed and size. The largest breeds can begin to show signs of old age by the time they’re about six years old. Smaller breeds may not reach their senior years until they’re over a decade old.
This difference has everything to do with the amount of weight a dog carries around during their lifetime. Larger dogs carry around plenty of weight. This puts excess stress on their joints, particularly the joints and bones in the hips, knees, and spine.
Over time, the weight and pressure cause the cartilage between joints to wear away. This happens much faster in large dogs, resulting in premature aging and a generally shorter lifespan. This lack of cushioning can make it painful for dogs to run, jump, and be as active as they once were.
Swimming and Water Aerobics
However, a preventative and nutritional diet can help offset many of these joint-related issues, as can low-impact exercise throughout a dog’s life. Swimming is one of the best exercises for senior pups with joint issues, and it can also be a wonderful lifelong exercise for dogs to enjoy.
Exercising within a body of water tends to relieve pressure on joints and help larger breeds experience a healthier, safer form of energy-releasing activity. Familiarizing your puppy with swimming pools, beaches, and other common swimming environments is the best way to ensure that they embrace such forms of exercise later on in life.
You could even play a heart-pounding game of fetch with your dog while at the pool or by the lake. Use a frisbee or plastic, floatable toy to get the most of your water aerobics. Your dog is bound to enjoy the excitement, and their senior body is more likely to benefit from the low-impact cardio boost.
There are several factors that could contribute to a dog’s weight problem. Poor diet is the primary culprit behind canine obesity, though age, fertility, and lifestyle habits can also contribute to excess weight gain. Daily exercise can help dogs enjoy the highest quality of life possible and live to see old age in comfort.
Walking your dog is a fantastic form of daily outdoor exercise, though you could also attempt indoor walks with the help of a treadmill. Biking, camping, and hiking are all excellent outdoor activities to enjoy with your pup. Dog parks are great for socialization and exercise and may be the optimal outdoor play solution for small breeds.
When you and your furry family members are caught indoors for elongated periods, a game of hide and seek can help lighten the tension and get the heart pumping. Indoor obstacle courses, bubble-blowing games, or wrestling matches can also provide the stimulation and exercise your dog needs to stay fit and healthy.