– by Tania Sigurdson, PVHS Education Chair
April is canine fitness month! While we have had a very long cold winter, the puddles and the ice are still out there and, although many of you have maintained a winter walking routine throughout, many are still reluctant to get back into the habit of the regular outdoor walks. The caution of wet paws and slippery paths is fair but, while we wait for the complete arrival of spring and tulips, how do we make sure our pups are still getting their exercise. As we know, canine fitness is as important as people fitness. It reduces risk of injury, improves our mental health, and contributes to a long and healthy life.
I am no expert but I am a lifelong dog owner and animal lover and want to encourage you to ensure that you do everything to keep your pup happy, healthy, and a longtime companion. Below are a few ideas you can create in your home to keep your dog active and engaged during the final push to spring.
1) Play Tug with your dog. The American Kennel Club posts that playing tug can “promote impulse control, building confidence, and strengthen the bond between dogs and their owners. Puppyleaks.com indicates that “tug is a great way to mentally and physically exercise your dog.”
2) Create an indoor obstacle course for your dog. On rainy days as a child I remember making forts in my living room with my sister. We had hours of fun. While still stuck inside with your dog, create a fun course for them to explore engaging both their body and their mind as they play and puzzle their way through. Put to kitchen chairs together and cover them with a blanket. Use a small stool for them to jump onto and off of again. Create a zig zag obstacle for them to weave around or between down the hall using things like boxes or shoes. Integrate going up or down stairs to complete the course. These are just a few ideas – get creative! To encourage your pup along the course, use your fun excited voice and treats. You can also play follow the leader and have your dog follow you through the course with lots of verbal encouragement and reward. It will be fun for both of you.
3) Create a food puzzle game. You can buy these also but for the more affordable version, try creating one at home. Womansday.com posted that “interactive food puzzles reward your dog’s natural drive to hunt and work for their food.” One idea on how to make your own food puzzle is to keep your toilet paper and paper towel cardboard rolls. Placing some kibble inside of the roll and fold the ends creating a challenge for your pup. If they have a hard time understanding, have them watch you put the kibble in so they know what the reward is for finding their way in to the tube. You can also turn a muffin tin upside down and sprinkle some kibble between the bumps. For a smaller dog, try a mini-muffin tin. You can also sprinkle some kibble on a towel and loosely roll the towel to have your dog search to find the kibble.
And remember, these activities are for both of you. Using this time to play and bond together is important both inside and out. As well, your dog will love all the attention and positive time spent together. Search online for more ideas of how to stay active inside with your pup.