If you are a dog owner then you know that exercise and play are both important aspects of a pooch’s wellbeing. And with January being International Walk Your Dog Month,  we’re taking a moment to discuss the importance of pet fitness. Most dogs, like humans, experience the adverse effects of ageing and just like their humans, can benefit from being active in their day to day life to improve how their body functions as they get older. The good thing is that there are more ways than one to ensure your dog gets their daily dose of exercise in a fun setting; what’s more, it’ll be great fun and beneficial for your health too.

How Is Walking Your Dog Beneficial To You & Your Pooch?

1. We’ve all put on some holiday weight (yes, your dog too, as you’ve probably been giving them treats more frequently) with end of year celebrations. Walking and running with your dog is the simplest way to get back to an active life and shed that holiday weight together.

2. Staying cooped up in your room can affect your mental health and stress you out. The same applies to your dog. Taking your dog for a walk can give you a reason to step out of your house and boost your serotonin levels. It also helps activate the dog’s moods, senses, and will lead to them sleeping better.

3. Getting a dose of fresh air gives you more energy and helps you focus on committing to your daily work. As for dogs, the sheer joy of sniffing and discovering new and varied scents every day is enough to get them excited. Take your dog out on paw patrol to see their energy levels go up and their digestion improve.

4. Getting outside, going for a walk can give you that much-needed break from technology and mobile devices. It also helps your dog get a change of scenery if they’ve been cooped up with you in the apartment all day.

Fun Ways To Help Your Dog Get Some Exercise

Other than going out for walks where the focus is mainly on ensuring they pop a squat and poop and pee, there are many fun ways to ensure your dog stays active and fit.

1. Make It A Game

There are a lot of games you can play with your dogs to make your walks more enjoyable. Games like catch, fetch, hide and seek, a treasure hunt with treats, or even a game of tag. Games, as such, encourage your dog to use all senses. In a game of hide and seek, your pooch will be pleased with themself once they find you but be ready with a toy or tasty treat and plenty of praise. As well as being fun, this game can often help encourage your dog to keep a close eye on you and improve recalls. You could also carry a frisbee or ball, and play a game of fetch with your dog.

2. Use Dog Tricks

You won’t regret teaching your pooch little tricks like ‘shake’, ‘sit’, ‘no’. During walks, you could teach your dog simple tricks like giving a handshake (or a paw shake) or to sit on command or even stay. These small commands could help him stay on route in case he gets nervous, agitated or overly excited. While this isn’t a very active form of physical exercise, it’s a great way to help your dog exercise their mind which also benefits from training and better cognitive function in their older age.

3. Take A Hike

Walking your dog taking the same road will bore you, and eventually your dog. Dogs love to smell everything and explore. The same route doesn’t offer new smells for the dog to explore. Think out of the usual area and try hiking for a change. Walking at a different space, climbing a hill, or taking a nature trail will excite your dog. Try out new routes to explore with your dog if hiking is not an option. 

4. Find Your Dog A Pet Buddy

Finding a friend to walk with can liven the walks and be easier to play games with. Catch or hide and seek with another pet can boost your pet’s spirits, teach them how to play well with other dogs, and also tap into their competitive instincts to please their pet parent. It could help teach your pet to be more social and eventually have a best friend.  Having a walking buddy, another pet parent, can also give you a friend to chat with during your walks. 

5. Sign Your Dog Up For Specialised Activities

Many cities have pet events and pet clubs with specialised activities in the month. This could include a swimming facility for dogs, obstacle courses, sporting and competitive events, or just a pet-friendly restaurant meet and greet with treats and group activities for your pooch.

Recipes: Healthy Homemade Treats To Train Your Dogs 

Sometimes your dog may just refuse to walk that extra 5 minutes. Or maybe is not motivated enough to be your workout buddy or play well with other pooches. Giving your dog a healthy treat that’s tasty too can be a great positive reinforcement and training tool. Here are a few recipes you could try: 

1. Peanut Butter Dog Treats 

Prep time: 5 mins

Cook time: 20 mins

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup water

You can use other kinds of peanut butter such as chunky, but if you do you’ll probably need to add more water to the mixture to make it into a workable dough.

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 F.
  2. Mix your flour, peanut butter & eggs in a large bowl until slightly combined.
  3. Add in a little bit of water (approximately one Tbsp at a time) until the mixture becomes wet enough to roll out as dough.
  4. Roll out your dough & cut out your favourite shapes with some cookie cutters.
  5. Place your treats onto your baking sheet & cook for about 15 minutes. 
  6. Your Peanut Butter Treats are ready

2. Frozen Apple Dog Treats

Prep time: 10 mins

Cook time: 3 hours

Ingredients:

  • 2 Apples
  • 1 Cup Greek Nonfat Plain Yogurt
  • Water

Method:

  1. Slice 2 apples into small pieces but remove the seeds and the core.
  2. Mix the apple slices, yoghurt, and a splash of water in your blender and blend until you get a liquid consistency.
  3. Pour the mixture into an ice cube tray and freeze for a few hours or until hard.
  4. Your Frozen Apple Treats are ready

Feed your dog one “cube” at a time. You can put the leftover treats into a Tupperware container and store them in the freezer.

3. Bacon Doughnuts

Prep time: 10 mins

Cook time: 15 mins

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 cup of oats
  • 1/3 cup of coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 2 eggs

For the topping:

  • Yoghurt
  • Bacon Bits

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Spray a doughnut pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients (except yoghurt and bacon bits). You can mix with a spoon or use your hands (super fun for kids!). Mix until a dough forms.
  3. Use your hands to press the dough into the doughnut pan. Fill each doughnut cavity and press firmly to ensure everything sticks together (it won’t rise, so you should make sure each space is tightly packed).
  4. Bake in your preheated oven at 375 degrees for approximately 14 mins or until cooked completely.
  5. Allow to cool, then carefully remove the doughnuts from the pan. Now they are ready to be decorated. 
  6. Set out a small bowl of plain yoghurt and another of bacon bits. Dip each doughnut carefully in the yoghurt, then sprinkle with bacon bits
  7. Place your finished doughnuts in the freezer for a few moments to harden the yoghurt. My dogs like to eat them straight from the freezer, but you can also store in the refrigerator. Just keep in mind that the yoghurt may get a little sticky.

Dogs are fun companions, especially during these hard times. They bring joy and happiness almost immediately. And being cooped up in your room for work could affect your mental health and also stress your dog. So embrace this International Walk Your Dog Month by stepping out of your house and exercising. Don’t forget to carry a mask and sanitisers for yourself. Stay six feet away from other walkers. And wash your hands and your dog’s paws, nose and anywhere that’s muddy, thoroughly after the walk.

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