Keeping Your Pet Fit in the City

By PetMD Editorial on May 13, 2011

You may be worried that because you live in the city, your options for exercise activities with your dog are limited, but that is not the case. Granted, backyards and nearby parks are very convenient ways to get your daily exercise, but there are still lots of ways to stay active with your dog, even if you live in a high-rise building. And don’t forget that even with the convenience of a nearby park, there is rain, snow, and lots of other reasons for not wanting to go outdoors.

Or maybe you keep long or unusual hours at work, and you don’t have the time to walk your dog as much as he needs. Here are a few options for staying active.

Hire a Dog Walker

In most urban areas, dog walkers are a common sight, often walking dogs in groups of three or more. For owners who work long hours, or can't get home during the day, hiring a dog walker is an excellent solution. Some walkers can provide extra services, like taking the dog to the dog park for play times, and reinforcing social training. Of course, your dog will have to be trained to be socially acceptable in groups of dogs and people, and most dog walkers will require this before they will take the job.

Walking Paths, Bike Paths and Community Parks

If you have the time to personally exercise your dog, municipal bike paths, walking paths and parks are great for getting in some quality walking, running, and playing time. If your dog has the physical ability to do so, you might even start training him to run alongside as you bike -- there are even special leash hooks that attach to the body of a bike to prevent leashes from getting entangled in the wheels.

Most urban areas have dog parks set aside within the community park to allow dog owners a place to exercise their dogs and socialize with other dogs and their owners. Know the requirements before you go. Many dog parks require proof of vaccinations and basic social training.

Doggie Day Care Centers and Fitness Centers/Spas

Since the main purpose of a doggie day care is to ensure that their “clients” are being exercised and socialized, taking your dog (or even your cat) to a local day care center or “spa” for the day is another excellent way to make sure your dog is getting his daily exercise and social time. Fees will vary depending on the services you want. Many day care centers offer pickup and delivery of your pet, grooming, administering medicine, training, and indoor exercise for inclement weather days.

Before you settle on a day care, make sure to take a tour of the facilities and never be afraid to ask as many questions as you have to; remember that it is your dog’s health and welfare that you are guarding.

Swimming Facilities for Pets

Swimming is a low-impact exercise that is less intense on the muscles, joints and ligaments, which is great for helping dogs with arthritis and for those that need physical therapy to recover from an injury.

As more families move into the city, more and more swim facilities are appearing to meet the needs of people who cannot travel far from home to find swimming water. Because of the possibility of transmissible disease (from dogs to humans via waste), the pools are generally only available for dogs to swim as their human companions stand to the side, encouraging them. In many cities, the community/municipal pools will host dog days, when people can bring their dogs to the pool for dog-only swim events. Check with your local community swim center to see if they host a dog event.

Exercise at Home

Finally, you always have the option of exercising at home. This is a good plan to consider for when weather makes it difficult to get out of the house, but maybe you just prefer staying at home, or you prefer not to pay others to exercise your dog for you. One method lots of owners have had luck with is an in home treadmill. You will need to get your dog accustomed to walking on the treadmill at first, but if you do it with him, and the treadmill is set to a pace that he is used to walking, he will learn to enjoy it and look forward to using it.

If you live in a high-rise building, the stairwell is one of the best free exercise tools you have at your disposal. Go at a pace that is comfortable for both you and your dog – you don’t want to start off running up and down the stairs when you are not used to that kind of exertion.

You will need to be creative to find to exercise your dog if you live in a city and have very little time on your hands. Check with your veterinarian, groomer and trainer, and use the resources available online to find out what’s available in your area.

Image: Kristine Paulus / via Flickr

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