As pet parents, we all want our pets to be happy, healthy, and active. One of the best ways to do that is to get them involved in sports and recreation activities. Just remember, your pet relies on you to help keep them active, so you’ll probably have to partake in some of these activities yourself!
If your dog is sad, lethargic, or unhealthy, this is one of the best ways to kickstart their health, both mental and physical. Here’s why sports and recreation are beneficial to your pet, whether you have a dog, a cat, a horse, or something else!
Boosts Their Health
An active pet is a healthy pet! Getting regular exercise helps to maintain their circulatory system, lower blood pressure, and halt the progression of various diseases and disorders, including diabetes and autoimmune disease.
Staying active also helps your pet to maintain a healthy weight. Whether your pet is small or large, this has a positive effect on their joints, as they aren’t taking on any excess weight.
Keep in mind that this should be paired with a healthy diet in order to keep your pet the healthiest and happiest they can be!
Strengthens Your Bond
In most cases (as long as you’re a loving pet parent), your pet enjoys spending time with you and loves it when you take some time to play with them. Even cats appreciate your attention every now and then!
It’s a well-known fact that being affectionate with your pet releases happy hormones in your brain, but did you know it does the same kind of thing to them? Being with you makes them happy, which means taking part in some sports and recreation together is an excellent way to bond and enjoy each other’s company.
Depending on the type of sport you’re doing, it’s also a way to build trust in each other. Some sports require pets and humans to work closely together, which means you’ll need to work on that bond so you can work seamlessly together!
Stimulates Them Mentally
Sports aren’t just about keeping your pet physically healthy. Dogs, cats, horses, birds, and even smaller animals like rabbits or hamsters need mental stimulation! As they say, a bored pet is a destructive pet!
Keeping your pet mentally stimulated means they’re less likely to chew, scratch, dig, bark, howl, yowl, spray, or do other things that can be considered to be destructive.
And of course, some animals were actually bred to do certain jobs. Dog breeds that are working dogs will appreciate having a job to do, and animals that are known to be highly intelligent need some brain exercise as well as muscle exercise!
Some pets are naturally highly-strung. Others are anxious as a result of being treated poorly by previous owners. Whatever the reason behind your pet’s stress, getting out of the house and doing something active can make a big difference.
Similar to how exercise releases endorphins in humans, pets also get a happy hormone boost when exercising. This helps to release tension and ease whatever stress is present, leaving them feeling much better after a good bit of play or sport.
Improves Their Behavior
If you struggle to control your pet’s behavior, exercising them regularly can make a huge difference. It’s not a fix-all, but it can help significantly with certain behavioral aspects.
For example, if your pet constantly has too much energy and gets out of hand by playing rough or not knowing when to stop, you’ll be surprised at how much more chilled they become when you take them for a daily run!
With regular activity, your pet is likely to be more tired (in a good way) and there’ll be less chewing on your possessions, jumping on guests, and barking at the dogs next door.
Improves Social Skills
Some sports and recreation activities are just for you and your pet, like taking them on a walk, or a hike or taking them with you on a kayak. But then you get those that are team sports or that involve a lot more participants than just the two of you.
This kind of environment can help your pet to improve their social skills in neutral territory. It’s advisable to ensure that your pet is already friendly and not aggressive if you’re going to take part in sports where they’ll come into contact with other animals and humans!
Some Sports Your Pet Might Like
So what kind of sports and recreation can you actually do with your pet? Here’s a short list of things you may want to look into, depending on what pet you have. Some are just you and your pet, while others are team sports or competitive sports!
- Dogs: Agility training, going for a walk, run, or hike, fetch, herding (sheepdogs), scent work, Disc Dog (frisbee), Flyball, Canine Freestyle, Canicross, dock jumping
- Cats: Agility training, going for a walk (with a leash), scent work, lure games
- Birds: Free flying, fetch, teaching tricks
- Horses: Equestrian, dressage, cross-country riding
- Rodents: Obstacle courses (may need to create your own), teaching tricks
Sports and recreation are both fun and healthy. Rather than restricting your pet’s food, getting them more active can solve many issues, both physical and mental. Just a bit more play and energy-exertion can have drastic positive results in both your pet’s life and yours!
Keep your pet healthy and happy by doing some sport with them! Remember, your dog may not enjoy your sports, so rather than forcing your pooch to follow you around the golf course (unless they particularly enjoy fetching lost golf balls), try a variety of sports specifically for pets until you find the one thing that they really love.
Also, take extra care if you have a flat-faced dog—they’re prone to overheating and breathing issues when they exercise too hard, so make sure not to overdo it!
About the AuthorJordan Fuller is a retired golfer and animal lover who involves his pets in his sport whenever he can! When he’s not on the course, either improving his own game or mentoring young golfers, he’s writing golf-related articles for this website, Golf Influence.