The holiday season may well be over but look on the bright side: you can still spend loads of time with your four-legged friend! If you’ve both been over-indulging over Christmas it’s also a great excuse to shed a few extra pounds by exercising together.
Now before you start any new activities with your pet, it’s really important to work out how much exercise your pet is actually able to do. For example, long runs with a flat-faced dog are probably a no-no, and older pets may struggle a bit more with certain exercises especially if they have arthritis.
If your pet is used to a more sedentary life, you’ll need to build them up slowly. Think about your first time in gym after Christmas – you don’t want them feeling that exhausted or they’ll never want to exercise again!
Exercising with your pet is not only a great way to stay in shape, but it’ll also give the two of you more chances to spend quality time together. Plus, if they’re having lots of fun they’ll love you even more.
We’ve pulled together some exercises both you and your dog or cat can get involved in!
For dogs: running
Jogging or running can be perfect exercise for active dogs who enjoy being on the go. If you’re not sure how to get started, read our advice on running with a dog or see if there’s a local canicross club the two of you can join.
Perfect for: young, active dogs who need more than two hours’ exercise a day. Take a look at our exercise guide if you’re not sure what your breed needs.
Avoid if: you have a dog that struggles with intense exercise, for instance an older dog or flat-faced dog, especially if they aren’t used to running. It’s also best to wait until your dog is fully grown before doing any intense exercise or running with them.
For cats: playtime
Sometimes, a good playtime session can give you both a really good workout! Interactive toys that need you to play with your cat are ideal, such as teaser toys, as you’ll both be moving. Often cats will prefer shorter sessions (about 10-15 minutes each) a few times a day. You can have a look at our vet-approved range of toys on our store.
Perfect for: cats who love to hunt and chase, especially on wet or cold days if they (and you) don’t want to go outside to exercise. You might find they prefer to play at dawn and dusk, which is usually prime hunting time.
Avoid if: you have a senior cat. You can still play, just try to limit any jumping as their older joints may be a little stiffer.
For dogs: walking
Most dogs love a walk, so this is something you won’t even have to train your dog to do. Whether you’re an avid hiker, or a stroll around the block type of person, a couple of walks a day will do you both lots of good (and has the added bonus of being good for yours and your dog’s mental health).
Perfect for: all dogs! Just make sure you stick to walks your dog can manage comfortably.
Avoid if: if it’s icy or wet outside, some dogs (for example older pets or those with arthritis) can be at risk of a slip or fall so be very careful and try to stick to surfaces with lots of grip if you decide to venture out. It’s also important to make sure you know your dog’s limits, especially if they are older or have any health conditions.
For cats: hide and seek
Some cats love to play hide-and-seek (some cats will like you to be the seeker, others prefer you to hide and some like both!). You might find your cat approaches you then runs away when you move, then comes back and does it again. This might mean they want to play chase around the house. If you move out of the room and your cat follows you, why not try hiding behind a door or piece of furniture and let them find you? Remember, you don’t need to jump out, shout or try to scare them for them to have a lot of fun – most cats like to follow silently just like they would when hunting.
Perfect for: cats who enjoy the chase game.
Avoid if: your cat doesn’t like being chased. Not all of them do and you don’t want to frighten them!
For dogs: agility
Some dogs really love agility, and running around a course with them will get you moving, too. Agility isn’t just for breeds like Collies and Spaniels – lots of different dogs love getting active and spending time with you. If you’re looking to get started, PDSA Vet Anna has put together her top tips on starting with agility. You can look for local clubs, too, to practice and learn.
Perfect for: quick, active dogs who love to learn new things.
Avoid if: you have a younger puppy who’s not quite ready for jumping, or if you have a senior citizen whose joints aren’t quite up to it anymore.