Obesity is not only a human problem. In fact, according to the Kennel Club, between 30 and 60% of all dogs are over-weight. The RSPCA have also expressed their concerns and cite it as being a real health and welfare issue.
Mental fitness is another important element of health and well-being. Dogs share many of the same environmental factors that contribute to anxiety in humans and boosting serotonin (the feel-good neurochemical) through exercise has been shown to be beneficial.
In a study conducted by Tiira and Lohi, it was found that dogs with limited opportunities to exercise were more likely to suffer from separation issues and other anxieties. Therefore, in a similar way to human serotonin boosting treatments, it makes perfect sense to incorporate play and exercise in to a dog's daily routine.
Here are just a few ideas of some mind and body activities that you can share together:
1. Walking: It has been shown that walking briskly improves cardio-vascular fitness, strengthens muscles and decreases stress. Dogs benefit too but make sure you give them chance to enjoy the different sights and smells so that they have a good mental workout too.
2. Sit ups: This exercise can be done whilst incorporating some training - another great bonding activity:
3. Agility classes: Find a local agility class or set up a course in the garden. Running alongside your dog to encourage them to go over, around and through the obstacles will give you a keep fit work out too! For ideas on how to make your own take a look here
4. Swimming: Canine Hydrotherapy Pools can be found throughout the UK. Make sure it is run by suitably qualified staff and ask about doggy swimming sessions. Watching your dog splashing around will be great fun for you both!
5. Listen to music together: This might not be as strange as it sounds. As part of a recent study a composer called Iain Jackson was commissioned to create a piece of classical music especially for dogs. The score, entitled A Dog’s Tale, lowered the dogs’ pulse rates as well as their levels of stress.
6. Playing: Get interactive. Whether it's just throwing a ball, playing tig or tug, you can have some real fun playing with your dog.
7. Massage: Studies in man have shown that massage can boost serotonin levels by 30% so it’s likely to have a similar effect on our pets. Furthermore, stoking dogs has been shown to help reduce blood pressure so there are mutual benefits. An example of a technique adapted specifically for animals is called Tellington Touch. This involves a range of massage like touches to influence mental and emotional balance.
Hopefully you will find an activity there that appeals to you and your dog. So….what are you waiting for?
NB Before embarking on any keep fit campaign you and your dog must be in good health. If you have any doubts seek medical advice from your Veterinarian and Doctor.
For more canine related information please visit www.catanddogtips.com