Although the frigid temperatures in Billings are an excellent excuse to stay cozy on the couch under a mound of blankets, an inactive season can mean your pet packs on too many pounds. Obesity is a serious condition in pets, with more than half the U.S. pet population overweight or obese. Without regular physical activity, your furry pal can become more fat than fluff, which can cause a host of health issues, such as osteoarthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. But, creative ways to incorporate exercise into your pet’s daily routine, whether indoors or out, can help your four-legged friend remain happy and healthy. Here are five ways to kick your pet’s exercise plan into higher gear.  

#1: Search for new activities your pet will enjoy

While daily walks are great, your pet may quickly get bored if that’s their only physical activity. Switch things up by finding new activities your pet may enjoy, which can boost their enthusiasm for exercise. Popular canine sports options include:

  • Dock diving
  • Agility
  • Treibball
  • Lure coursing
  • Barn hunts
  • Nosework
  • Obedience courses
  • Flyball

If your dog doesn’t seem interested or particularly enthusiastic about a certain activity, don’t give up. Search for area kennel clubs and training facilities that host classes that introduce dogs to different sports, and keep trying to find your pet’s perfect fit.

Although you can’t tote your cat to a canine sporting class, you can find new activities at home your feline friend may enjoy. Discover your cat’s prey preference by purchasing various toys designed to appeal to their inner predator. Stuffed animals that resemble mice, feathered objects that look like birds, and lasers that mimic bugs can help you learn your cat’s prey preference, and in turn, their favorite toys. When you know your cat’s favorite toys, you can encourage them to be more playful and active.

#2: Change up your pet’s regular exercise routine

On your pet’s daily walk, do you always take the same neighborhood path? If so, it’s no wonder you aren’t enthused about lacing up your shoes and snapping on your dog’s leash. Reinvigorate walktime by exploring new trails through a local park, a nearby wooded area, or around a different neighborhood. 

If walks are your pet’s typical exercise, make a change and go for a walk one day, and then engage in multiple brief training sessions the next. Keep things fresh and exciting to motivate you and your pet to exercise.

#3: Enlist the help of a friend to stay active with your pet

Exercising is much more fun with company. For extra encouragement, ask a friend to join you for hikes with your pet, or to come over and play fetch for a while. You can also head out to pet-friendly restaurants and bars to meet like-minded people and their pets who could make great exercise partners. Plus, having a friend along will hold you accountable for ensuring you and your pet exercise each day.

#4: Set up indoor exercise stations for you and your pet

Similar to high school gym class, exercise stations are a great way to boost enthusiasm for physical activity, and the rotations can help keep your pet’s daily activity sessions fresh and fun. For example, set up a course that includes training areas, agility obstacles, and short sprints. These stations will not only get your pet’s heart rate up, but also strengthen your bond as they look to you for direction.

#5: Choose seasonal activities with your pet to make the most of the outdoors with your pet

The weather outside may be chilly, but that’s no reason to abandon outdoor exercise until springtime. Instead, choose physical activities that match the season to make the most of the outdoors with your pet. In winter, consider cross-country skiing or skijoring through snow for a great workout. When summer heats up, jump into a lake with your furry pal to cool off with some low-impact exercise.

Before jumping into a rigorous exercise regimen with your four-legged friend, ensure they are healthy enough to step up their exercise game. Schedule a wellness visit with your Billings Animal Family Hospital veterinarian to check your pet for any heart, lung, bone, or joint conditions.