If the only thing Fido fetches is the TV remote, there’s bound to be repercussions. It’s pretty clear: Our sedentary lifestyle has rubbed off on our pets as a secondary effect. “Dogs were designed to be active during the day,” says veterinarian Jennifer Bolser. Hunting. Retrieving. Guarding. The lineage of the domestic dog can be traced back to a subspecies of gray wolf, who, believe us, are a bit more vigorous. But we can still break their couch-bound habits and learn healthier ones.
Bolser, of the Humane Society of Boulder Valley, says we can start by avoiding “the weekend warrior syndrome.” Instead of walking two days of the week, make it daily. “Start off slow,” Bolser warns. “Later, it could progress into jogging, getting [your dog’s] heart rate elevated.” Being in Boulder County lends to a spectrum of activities: fly ball, herding, snowshoeing, dock diving, even the Norwegian skijoring—where the owner is pulled by harnessed dogs. Cats are more challenging. It’s better to lean toward the natural and instinctive lift platforms and chase mechanisms (laser pointers don’t count!). Also, besides nabbing fake mice, it’s not uncommon to hit hiking trails.
Time constraints? Then consider boarding and daycare options with agility courses like Cottonwood Kennels. The staff-to-pet ratio there ensures each animal gets daily attention, regular pasture walks and course runs replete with a teeter-totter, hurdles and weave poles. “You can see them get excited about it,” says kennel manager Rhonda Beitzel about a dog’s sense of achievement during agility sequences. The interaction is better tailored here for mental stimulation. “You’re not just moving a dog from its kennel to a yard,” says co-owner Penny Vardell. Otherwise they’re likely to get “bummed out.” Trust us, the last thing we need is another slouch on a couch.