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My Dog and I: It’s Definitely Spring!

By Janine Lazarus

You know, ramps, daffodils, mowing, lily white legs in shorts, sneezing and puppies!!!

We all emerge from our caves and decide to enjoy the great outdoors again and vow to exercise all that winter padding away. What better way than to take our new, old and rambunctious dogfriends out for a nice woods walk or a stroll in the sunshine?

All exercise is good exercise and any time you are breathing in the fresh air and moving your body is great for you… and your canine pal.

So lets talk a bit about types of exercise and what might be a good choice for you both.

Not all exercise is equal, for either of you, and to help you define how you want to spend your time together in a way that gives you the most benefit, I will try outline three different types of exercise and how they all give back!

The first kind of exercise is the one most people think of when I bring up the subject…

Let’s call this one “chasing the ball.” This is what many of my clients will offer as the main way their dogs get their “beans out.” The dog will go outside for a half an hour or so and retrieve a ball, Frisbee, or stick. There may be some “child chasing” or wrestling and yes, the dog will burn some calories, especially if this is the only form of exercise he gets. He will interact with his people and will enjoy the connection but this can become repetitive and boring for dog and human and while the dog learns to look for this interaction as the high point in his day, the humans may tire quickly of these games and are unlikely to want to do this every day for twelve years. This type of exercise can also foster neurotic ball chasing and frisbee or stick obsessions that are hard to break and the environment is usually unchanging so the dog does not get to go out into the world to socialize or experience any diversity in his life.

The second type of exercise is something I call “mental exercise.” In this interaction we challenge the dog to use his brain to learn new things, figure out problems or work with his mind to expand his skillset. Any type of mental work will fit this bill. You can teach your dog how to do something new with his body, play hide and seek with different items, show your dog how to move his body differently, or keep it still. In fact, any kind of focused concentration will stimulate and benefit your friend and create a stronger bond together. You will also be surprised by how much calmer he is after a short session of concentrated work! This kind of exercise is great for people and dogs that are forced to spend time confined to the house or in small areas.

The third type of exercise is absolutely my favorite and one that is a little more difficult to set up. In this picture, you and your dog are out in nature, simply strolling along, checking out the green stuff and taking in the season, cold, wet or hot… you are dreaming a little, your dog has his nose on the ground and all is well with the world… Luckily for us, we have access to many green spaces where we live but more and more places are recognizing the benefit of green areas and even in the middle of many cities we can find places to wander with our dogs and if they cannot be completely off leash, use a long line so that they can move at their own pace… I call this Valium for Dogs!!!

So many ways to spend growthful time with your dog and relieve some of the irritation and pent up energy that living closely with our dogfriends can cause.

The best plan of course, is a combination of all these things but if you can only do one type of exercise in a day, change it up every few days!

We include these guys in our lives to teach us as well as to satisfy our needs…Maybe they can contribute this spring by blowing some of the cobwebs away and helping us bounce back into the sunshine!!!

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