Editor’s note: Have you seen the new Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? This article appeared in our February/March issue. Subscribe to Dogster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home.
Inspiration is all around us these days. It’s in the glow of our phones and computer screens (someone might post the cutest puppy photo ever; it would be a shame to miss it) and in the binge watching of a new season of the best series on Netflix. And those candies aren’t going to crush themselves, are they? But with all of these distractions — ahem, inspirations — it’s easy to forget to be inspired by the furry ball of love at your feet. Here are seven things to inspire you to get up and play with your dog.
Facebook isn’t going to tone your thighs or reduce your pup’s potbelly. One great reason to forge outside with your dog and throw the old tennis ball is the cardiovascular benefit for the both of you. Burn a few calories while you have some fun. Can’t find your dog’s tennis ball? It’s under the couch making friends with the dust bunnies.
Adding one more walk to your routine or lengthening your current walks by just 15 minutes each can add up to more than a 200-calorie burn for you. For your dog, this can mean a few more treats that won’t pack the pounds onto his waist.
How many photos on your Instagram feed are of you snuggling on the couch with your dog? Could your profile pic use a new background? Every moment you stay glued to your computer, you’re losing out on valuable photo ops. How many likes can you get on a photo of you playing with your dog in front of a national landmark? Probably more than the 10th photo of Fifi in the bathtub (although wet dogs are incredibly cute).
Use social media to incentivize yourself to create fun photos with your dog. Is there a famous photo that you like or a friend’s photo you’ve always admired? Recreate it. Bonus points if you have to walk or drive to a park or other dog-friendly place. Double bonus points if you’ve found your dog’s tennis ball by now.
Have you noticed how many people you meet at the dog park or at a dog-friendly location versus how many you meet at home playing Rock Band by yourself? The pizza delivery guy doesn’t count, even if he likes your dog.
In case you don’t know this already, dog people are the best. When else can you approach a stranger and tell her that you wuvher puppy-wuppy-wuvvy-dovey- doggie-woggie-cutey-patootey’sadorable wittle facey-wacey? There’s rarely another occasion for that. Who else can you talk to about your dog’s adorable poop-eating habit and have everyone in the room commiserate with you rather than vomit on your shoes? You can never have too many dog people in your life.
Most dogs will benefit from being around other dogs. Dog parks aren’t just for well-adjusted mutts who love everyone and everything. Only dogs need “dog time.” A shy dog may find a gentle playmate who gives him incentive to come out of his shell. Dogs who are too sheltered can develop fears and phobias. Exposing your dog regularly to new places, people, noises, scents, and objects can help him better navigate the world. If the weather is bad, invite a few dogs over for an indoor puppy play date.
Don’t wait for someone to commit to going somewhere or taking a trip with you. Just look down. See that furry face? That’s the most committed soul in your life. Take your dog places you’ve never been before. Traveling with a pint-sized pooch has never been easier. Have a bigger dog? Then it’s road trip time! Even if the road trip is just to a park in another neighborhood or a new hiking trail, you can explore all of it together. Bonus: new Facebook timeline photos and something to tweet about!
Some dogs are content to couch potato their lives away, while others will chew the kitchen cabinets in a single moment of downtime. A dog with an active brain and high energy level needs the mental stimulation of play. If your dog is destructive, it’s likely because he needs something to do. Hiding treats around your house, playing fetch, or filling up a baby pool with snow and tossing in some yummy noms are all great ways to keep a busy dog’s brain focused on something productive.
Playtime is the perfect time for training opportunities. For example, teaching your dog to fetch a Frisbee or tennis ball (have you found it yet?) is more than just play. During a game of fetch you are also instilling two important commands — the recall command (“come!”) and “drop it” — both of which are critical in keeping your dog safe. You can also teach the sit and wait commands during a game of fetch. Find games that will give your dog one or more new skills or reinforce the skills he already has.
Read more by Nikki Moustaki:
About the author: Nikki Moustaki is a dog trainer, dog rescuer, and pet expert. She splits her time between New York City and Miami Beach, Florida, and is the author of the memoir The Bird Market of Paris. Visit her on Twitter at @nikkimoustaki and atnikkimoustaki.com.