Meet Buddy the border collie, our guest writer this month. This herding dog is on the front lines every day as pets battle to get plenty of exercise and stay fit. Read on for ideas on staying active with your pet in Buddy’s Boot Camp.
#1: Keep exercise fun for your pet
Buddy: “Attention troops! Pets and people need mental and physical work to stay healthy. I know I call this a boot camp, but staying active doesn’t have to be a burden. Most pets are willing to play—when you find the right toy. Your retriever may prefer to fetch a ball, while your terrier may love to attack a squeaky toy. If you are working from home and need to be active—together, but separately—most pets will stay busy for hours with a treat puzzle, such as a frozen Kong filled with peanut butter, or a busy-ball filled with your cat’s favorite treats.”
Buddy uses drill commands and military analogies, but he knows that for pets to get exercise, an open mind often works better than a rigid plan. Read up on your pet’s breed characteristics, and observe their behavioral tendencies. Is your cat a fisher or a hunter? Would your pet prefer to army crawl through a flexible tunnel in your backyard, or trot beside you on a trail through the woods? Choose durable toys your pet cannot destroy or ingest. Remember that only a few moments of play during each day will make a big difference.
#2: Take a class with your pet
Buddy: “Eyes front! About face! Believe me—it’s easier to take orders with a group. Options for learning with your pet are more diverse than ever. Search online for home-based virtual classes, or contact local pet learning centers for socially distanced classes. Options range from beginner behavior lessons to advanced agility training. When you stay active with a group, the bond with your classmates helps keep you motivated. And, let’s face it—puppies, I’m talking to you—wouldn’t it be nice to catch less flak by learning better behavior?”
Call Belmont Animal Hospital for classes that best match you and your pet. Overall, pets benefit most from brief, focused work repeated at regular intervals. In addition to the cardiovascular exercise, mental improvement, and social activity, you and your pet will reap the rewards of increased flexibility, body awareness, and muscle strength.
#3: Delegate duties
Buddy: “When planning more activities with your pets, remember that you are not the only boots on the ground. Everyone in the family is on active duty. Children benefit from the responsibility of walking the dog. Grandpa benefits from trips to the dog park. For group activities, or if you have multiple pets at home, ask our veterinary team for tips on supporting safe play together. Encourage all family members to join in on the fun.”
Buddy has the right idea about staying active—recruit more troops to avoid mission failure. Pets need to explore outside the home every day for their best mental and physical health, and to socialize with non-housemates at least two to three times per week. If this sounds like a lot, our team can help you get the ball rolling with doggie-daycare, as well as providing important safety tips.
#4: Support senior pets
Buddy: “Senior pets shouldn’t feel they have to bite the bullet to get exercise. Arthritis and joint stiffness are common in older pets, and they need extra support, especially in cold weather. Senior pets may be slower to get going and generally need more moderate exercise—they can’t do it all on the double. Nutritional joint supplements such as glucosamine and fatty acids may help, and plenty of fresh water is always important.
Senior pets can be supported in many ways, from special diets, to nutritional supplements, to supportive therapies. Passive range-of-motion exercises, cold laser therapy, and acupuncture may also help. Our dedicated Belmont Animal Hospital team can prescribe the marching orders best for your senior pet’s situation.
#5: Enrich your pet’s environment
Buddy: “While dogs love sturdy chew toys, cats love scatter springs, pull toys, and laser lights. Cats tell me they like a safe haven up high where they can hide and monitor the space below. I asked our cat if she liked looking down on us from her cat tower. Her reply? ‘Roger that.’ Everyone knows you can enrich your dog’s environment by leash-walking, but did you ever consider leash-walking your cat? Our hospital has ‘got your six,’ so don’t hesitate to call for tips on harness-training your cat or kitten.”
The same way soldiers must put on their “cover,” pets should never go outside the home without their harness, collar, leash, identification, and microchip. Check in with our team for safe use of toys and harnesses to enrich your pet and their environment.
Staying active with your pet works best when everyone pulls together—your pet, your veterinarian, and your family. Contact the troops at Belmont Animal Hospital for help. At the end of every day, we want to look at your pet fitness goals along with Buddy and say, “Mission accomplished.”