Spring is coming – Time for your pet to come out of hibernation and get moving! You too!

Pets love to be on the move, and exercise has proven to be the most effective form of preventative medicine for our four legged friends. Older pets decrease arthritic pain via exercise and younger pets build muscle needed to sustain a healthy, long life. Here are some suggestions to get your pet moving this spring:

Walk it out

Short and frequent walks have been shown to have the same benefits as one long walk. So, if you don’t have time to go for a three-mile hike with Fido, go for two or three fast-paced walks for ten or fifteen minutes. This is a good way to get your heart rate up and acclimate your pet to looking forward to short stroll. Walks also cut down on your yard clean up – be sure to bring compostable waste bags to clean up after your pet.

It can still get pretty cold in March and April, make sure to provide your pet with a protective layer when the temperatures dip below 30.

Make waiting fun

Teach your pet to wait or search for food and treats to move the emphasis off of the food and onto training, movement, and reward. For instance, if you typically put your pet’s food bowl in the same place for each feeding, try hiding the bowl in a different spot and then encourage your pet to find it.

You can also train your pet to ‘wait’ for rewards. For both cats and dogs, hide treats in a dispensing ball the requires them to use skill and action to access treats. If you want to give simple rewards for good behavior, have your pet (this works best with dogs) sit and stay as you place a treat in their food bowl. Tell your pet to “wait,” in a sitting position until you say “ok” to permit them to retrieve the treat.

Play some games

Cats love chasing small objects. Lasers and feathers can entertain you and your pet for hours. The joy experienced in watching a pet play is actually good for you too.

Science has found that smiling, laughing, and playing increases the release of neurotransmitters called endorphins in your brain that not only make us feel happier, but actually combat the stress hormone cortisol.

Dogs also enjoy chasing balls, toys and you. Head outside and run around with your pet’s favorite toy. They will be so thrilled to chase you and the toy and the reward of being given the toy is all they want. – no food required! Learning how to fetch and retrieve is an excellent form of mental and physical stimulation that can entertain you and your pet for years.

When it is too cold to play outside, provide your pets with plenty of toys to play with indoors. This will help decrease destructive and inappropriate behavior while keeping them on the move and at a healthy weight.