Staying Active with Your Less Active Dog

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Is your dog physically challenged or perhaps you’re seeing a decrease in your dog’s ability to “keep up?”

That doesn’t have to mean the fun is over – far from it!

Today’s the day to be reinvigorated with fun and engaging ways to bond and spend quality time with your dog, no matter what his limitations are.

It’s time to think outside of the box on what you can do with your dog instead of focusing on his limitations.

Here are my top seven ways to be active with your less active dog.

Please keep in mind that each dog is different in his needs and abilities, and all activities may not be suitable for all dogs.

Casual Stroll and Sniff

If your dog enjoys leisurely walking and sniffing, this is a great addition to his daily routine.

Walking can be done in the house, outside in your yard, around the neighborhood, in a pet store or even in the park — it really depends on how active your dog is.

The important thing to keep in mind is to connect with your dog. Engage him on your walks, smell the flowers, smell the vole tunnels, maybe even encourage him to dig one up!

You can even teach your dog to sniff on cue! Here’s how.

Get excited, say “sniffy-sniffy” and point and touch the ground. Point to something that is likely to have some scent interest, like a vole hole or tree trunk. Engage with him and touch the smelling spot and have fun. Then, allow him to sniff or walk away, and do it again on another fun spot.

Because you’re pointing to spots that are likely of prime interest, he’ll catch on pretty quickly, and think you have an amazing ability to find the cool stuff.

Dog Stroller Or Wagon

I’m personally a huge fan of dog strollers and wagons.

This allows a dog to be out on any adventure without the worry that he’ll get tired, and even allows him his own personal space.

It’s also a great back-up plan; if you go for a walk and your dog is running out of steam, just pop him into the stroller and continue on.

I take my dog Dexter’s stroller with me on every vacation, large adventure and dog event. Just because your dog may not keep up doesn’t mean he has to stay home.

Biking With Your Dog

No, I’m not talking about your dog running alongside your bike, but instead riding behind your bike in a dog bicycle trailer!

Or, if you have a small dog, you can look at dog bicycle seats that attach to the front or rear of a bike.

If you’re a physically active person, but your dog isn’t, this is a great option to keep you moving and your dog comfortable.

With the extra weight of the trailer and your dog, it’s a great workout!

Tricks And Training

Remember, the best way to keep a healthy relationship with your dog is interacting and truly making a connection every day.

Teaching tricks and other behaviors is a wonderful way to bond with your dog, and helps keep your dog’s mind sharp and active.

If you have a socially appropriate dog, consider attending positive dog training classes for a fun, weekly outing together.

Find You

Find You is hide and seek with your dog! It’s an easy game to play and you can modify it to meet your dog’s needs.

Ask your dog to Sit-Stay as you leave the room and tuck yourself behind a piece of furniture, door, or curtains. If he doesn’t know how to stay, just sneak off when he’s not looking.

Once you’re hidden, quickly call your dog, then be quiet. Let him start to looking for you.

If he’s actively searching, stay quiet and give him a chance to find you. If he seems confused, or you hid too well, say his name again.

When he finds you, make a big fuss and play.

Find Toy Or Treat

You can modify the Find You game using toys or treats.

Start by playing with one of your dog’s favorite toys and get a nice game going.

Ask him to Sit-Stay, or hold him back if he doesn’t know how to stay. Place the toy 5 feet away from him and say, “Find It!”

Once he grabs the toy, start playing again. As your dog starts to understand the idea of the game, start placing the toy farther away, until eventually the toy’s out of sight.

If you want to use treats or a food-filled toy, repeat the stay exercise, but this time instead of placing the toy, you’ll hide the treats and use another term, such as “Find Your Treats.”

Massage And Talking

Turn off your TV, cell phone and anything else that’s distracting. It’s communicating your love and attention that really matters.

Touch is one of the most powerful forms of connecting with another being. By massaging and talking gently to your dog, you can enhance your friendship and commitment.

You don’t have to know any specific massage techniques; just allow your dog to guide you on where, how long and how deeply he likes to be rubbed.

If you’d like to learn specific ways to help with physical or mental discomfort, there are a variety of dog massage manuals, classes, and videos. Here’s an article that’ll help you get started, with three basic massage moves you can use.

The important take-home is to remember to include your dog daily in activities. He may have some limitations, but don’t we all? That doesn’t mean he’d prefer to be left out. He’s a valuable family member and should be treated as one.

What games and activities have you found that your dog enjoys?

 

 

About the Author Tonya Wilhelm

Tonya Wilhelm, a full-time dog training specialist for two decades, has written "Proactive Puppy Care", "Please Stay-Help For A Dog With Separation Anxiety" and "What's For Dinner, Dexter? Cooking For Your Dog Using Chinese Medicine Theory". She has traveled the USA presenting dog behavior seminars promoting positive and effective dog training and offers in-person training, phone and video training. Visit Tonya at globaldogtraining.com