If you live in Texas, you cannot use cold-weather excuses to snuggle up on the couch with your pet and avoid exercising outdoors. With more than half the U.S. pet population tipping the scales to the overweight or obese side, daily exercise is a must to shed those extra pounds. Additional weight can create a host of health problems, including arthritis, heart disease, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer. Plus, lack of physical activity can cause myriad behavior issues, such as anxiety, boredom, destructive behavior, and inappropriate elimination. By implementing a regular exercise plan with your four-legged friend, you’ll both be happier and healthier. Here are four ways to get started on your exercise adventure. 

#1: Discover new walking routes with your pet

Because of our balmy winter conditions, you can walk your furry pal outside year-round with no fear of snow, ice, or hypothermia. Of course, you must take proper precautions in the summer to avoid overheating, but you can still safely walk your pet. The same old walking path you take every day can quickly become boring and make you less apt to lace up your tennis shoes, so occasionally change up your route. Travel through different neighborhoods, local parks, and wooded areas, or take a trip to a new town or city for fresh scents and sights. 

Don’t think your cat can’t go outside to enjoy exercise and fresh air, too. Try harness training your feline friend to walk calmly on a leash, or for extra safety, secure your cat in a pet stroller. Stay well away from strange dogs, as an approaching dog may become overexcited and startle or scare your cat. 

#2: Sign up for a training course with your pet

Imagine never learning anything new after you left elementary school. That would make life pretty boring, right? Your pet is the same way. They may have gone through a round or two of puppy preschool or kitty kindergarten, but that was the end of their education. Enroll in an exciting new course to get your pet active and to help stimulate their mind. Course ideas include:

  • Dock diving
  • Treibball
  • Lure coursing
  • Barn hunts
  • Scentwork
  • Agility
  • Rally
  • Synchronized dancing

No matter your interests, a class or sport that will encourage more daily activity will surely be available. Search for area kennel clubs and training facilities and check out the courses they offer, or look online for classes you can take at home. 

#3: Engage in daily training sessions with your pet

Daily exercise, which not only provides a way to burn off those extra calories, but also helps form a long-lasting habit, is best. Encourage your pet to get up and get active with you each day by starting with one or two short training sessions. Brush up on old tricks, or teach them new skills. With enough patience, effort, and treats, you’ll soon have your pooch carrying in the groceries and fetching you a drink. 

And, yes, cats can be trained. You may not think that’s possible, but with the appropriate reward, cats can learn tricks. Keep your cat’s training sessions shorter than your dog’s, because cats have shorter attention spans and can quickly lose interest. 

#4: Find help exercising your pet

Some days you may be too busy to squeeze activity with your pet into your hectic schedule. For those days, consider asking a friend or family member to help, or hire a dog walker to take your pooch for a neighborhood jaunt, or a feline caretaker to stop in and play with your cat. Your dog may also enjoy spending the day making canine and human friends at doggy daycare. These facilities typically separate dogs into specific groups based on their play style. Calm, older dogs can relax and explore in a quiet setting, while rambunctious, younger dogs can romp and play together. You may not always be able to exercise your pet, but plenty of other options are available, and daily exercise is vital to prevent your pet from boredom and potential inappropriate behavior.

Before beginning an intense exercise regimen with your four-legged friend, ensure they can keep up with an increase in physical activity. Schedule an appointment with our Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital team for a comprehensive physical exam for your pet.