When most people think of exercising with their pet, they automatically think of walking and/or running. While these are great activities to do with your pet on a daily basis, there are other fun activities that you can share with your pet that can provide not only physical exercise, but mental exercise as well.

Agility

Dog agility is a popular competitive sport in which you direct your dog to run through an obstacle course. One dog at a time runs the course and the dog with the fastest time and fewest penalties wins. Many communities have agility clubs where you and your dog can go for classes to learn the basics of participating in agility. There are different levels of participation, from taking your dog to an agility course for fun all the way up to competing internationally. The first time you introduce your dog to an agility course, they may be hesitant or fearful of some of the obstacles. Use treats and positive reinforcement to help get them over their fear. Never force them into an activity. It requires a lot of time and patience to train a dog to do agility. Once dogs get the idea of the agility course, they love it and it is a fun way for both dog and owner to get exercise. For more information on getting involved in dog agility, visit the following websites:

Flyball

Flyball is a team sport for dogs that is growing in popularity. It is a relay race with four dogs on a team. There are four hurdles on the course, spaced ten feet apart. The first dog starts at the starting line, jumps all four hurdles and then steps on a spring-loaded box that releases a tennis ball. The dog catches the ball, then jumps back over the four hurdles and crosses back over the starting line. Then the next dog repeats the process until all four dogs on the team have completed the course. The first team to have all four dogs finish without any errors is declared the winner. Flyball is a very fast-paced, exciting activity. For more information on flyball, go to www.flyballdogs.com or www.flyball.org.

Herding

If you own a herding breed of dog, herding trials are a great way for your dog to get some exercise and put their natural instincts to work. If you decide to get your dog involved in herding, you should contact a professional instructor. Herding isn’t something that you simply throw your dog into; a lot of training is involved. The dog must learn to control any aggressive tendencies he may have towards the animals he is herding. The first time a dog is introduced to livestock, they need to be closely monitored. For information on getting your dog started in herding, visit www.herdingontheweb.com. It is a long process, requiring a lot of training, to get your dog prepared to compete in sanctioned herding trials.

Herding trials are events where dogs move sheep, goats or cattle around in a field or arena, guiding them around obstacles and into an enclosure. This is accomplished by following commands given by the owner or handler, and they are judged on their performance. They may be given a specified amount of time to get all of the animals herded into the enclosure. Herding trials are more popular in some areas of the country than others. If you live in an area where herding is a popular activity, it is a wonderful way for your pet to get exercise, use his natural-born instincts and build a strong bond between dog and owner. To find out more about events in your area, go to www.ahba-herding.org/.

Tracking

Tracking is a sport in which dogs are tested on their ability to follow a human scent through a variety of terrains in all kinds of weather. A course is laid out in an open field by a tracklayer that walks the course the day before the event, placing items along the course. The day of the event, the handler walks the course with their dog on a 20-to-40-foot lead while the dog follows the scent of the tracklayer and finds the items left along the course. The dog is not allowed off lead at any time. A judge follows the dog and handler to make sure the dog stays on course and finds all of the items. If the dog goes off-course or misses an item, he is given a “fail”. If they stay on course and find all of the items, they are given a “pass”. For more information on tracking, go towww.akc.org/events/tracking.

Swimming

If you, your dog or both aren’t in to organized events requiring a lot of time and training, a nice swim is a good form of exercise. If you live near a body of water swimming is an easy way for your dog to get a good workout. Providing they like the water, of course. Never force your dog to go into the water if he or she doesn’t want to.

No matter what activity you choose to involve your dog in, the benefits for both you and your pet include, but are not limited to, reduced risk of heart disease, digestion problems, stress, depression, insomnia, healthy weight maintenance and confidence building.

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