“Why is my dog jumping on me? Why won’t my dog stop barking? Why won’t my dog calm down? Why does my dog always dig holes in the yard? He knows better!”
“Why won’t my kitten leave me alone? Why is my kitten biting me all the time? Why won’t my kitten stay off the countertops? Why does my kitten keep pouncing on and attacking me? She should know better!”
I have heard each of these questions a myriad of times from potential clients. Many of them are ready to dedicate time and money to solve these issues, others are desperately hoping for a quick and easy fix. Well, I have some great news for you! There is a quick fix! Regular structured exercise can often solve all of these issues and many more! "What?! You’re crazy, Laura. All of these questions are about behavioral issues. You always tell us that training is a lifelong process. If one simple fix could solve most common training concerns… wouldn’t we all be doing it already?"
I know, right?! That’s what this post is all about! I’m hoping will help all of you to realize how beneficial this quick fix can be and motivate to you to stick to it. It really can alter behavior, solve health concerns, and save lives. Some issues may also take a little training to resolve, but structured exercise always has a huge role in any training program.
Still in doubt? Let’s take a deeper look at our pets’ desperate need for exercise...
Pet Obesity Epidemic
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, an estimated 50.2 million dogs and 56.5 million cats in the United States are above their ideal weight!  That means over half of all dogs and cats are overweight. Besides causing a plethora of health concerns including heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, and cancer, pet obesity can also contribute to behavioral issues like aggression or anxiety. [2,3] (Is your dog or cat overweight? Learn more here.)
Wow! There are some serious truth bombs in that paragraph. Can you believe that at least 1 out of every 5 dogs and 2 out of every 5 cats are above their ideal weight? Chubby and obese pets are all around us, and they are all at risk for serious health and behavioral issues. They can’t control their lifestyle, but we can. Through better diet and exercise, we can help our pets to live happier, healthier, and longer lives.
Benefits of Structured Exercise
Exercise helps our pets (and us!) on a physical and emotional level. Overweight and under-exercised pets have an excess of energy that is waiting for an outlet. When we don’t give our pets exercise, they funnel that energy in negative behaviors like jumping, play biting, digging, and even aggression. When we pour that energy into structured exercise, the excess is depleted. Our pets have just enough energy left to be calm, happy pets.
That benefit alone should have us leashing up our pets and getting outside with them, but it doesn’t stop there! Exercising with our pets is great for us too! Many studies have shown that exercise can help to alleviate anxiety and depression in people, and it can do the same for pets as well. [4, 5, 6]
When we get outside and exercise with our pets, we’ll reap the rewards ourselves. Just the simple act of spending time with our pets helps to reduce blood pressure, anxiety, stress, and depression . [7, 8] When we add in exercise, it can reduce all those things even more! The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of aerobic activity (such as walking) to maintain heart health.  There are few things more beneficial to us and our pets than going on walks together!
Extra Motivation & Accountability
I know, I know. I'm laying it on pretty thick! I’m even starting to make myself feel a little guilty about the amount of exercise my pets and I get in a week! Is anybody else feeling it? If you’re anything like me, when you look at all this information you’re thinking, “Man! I know I need to do this. I know I need to get out there with my pets and get regular exercise in, but I still struggle to do so every week!”
Let me give you the extra motivation and accountability you need to do this! Studies have shown that we may be more motivated and likely to follow through on exercise if we have a reward system. [10, 11] Check out these motivators:
AKC Fit Dog Program The American Kennel Club (AKC) has come up with a simple reward program, the AKC Fit Dog Program! This program provides a free AKC Fit Dog car magnet to show off to all your friends and family and anyone you drive past once you have completed one of the following options: 1. Walked at least 30 minutes 5 times per week for a total of at least 150 minutes per week for at least 3 months 2. Walked at least 15 minutes per session at least 10 times per week (e.g., two 15-min walks per day) for at least 3 months. Pick the goal that works best for you and your pup and start walking! Once you’ve met your goal, all you’ll need to do is submit the simple Magnet Order form and your magnet will be on it’s way! (Learn more about AKC Fit Dog)
Accountability and Tips on Social Media If your pet isn’t a dog, don’t worry! We aren’t leaving you out. There will be plenty of motivation for you too. Make sure to follow King’s Creatures on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest for regular tips and insights into exercising any pet! Our cats participate in daily exercise too! I often post Stories on the King’s Creatures Facebook & Instagram pages when we walk with the dogs and exercise the cats. (Do you want you and your pet to be featured? Shoot KCAT a DM with a picture or video of your exercise!)
Email Encouragement Get exercise reminders, training tips, and more delivered directly to your inbox! Sign up for emails from King's Creatures at fitpets.kingscreatures.com.
Let’s all do our best to ensure our pets are living their best lives! We’ve got this!
1 U.S. Pet Obesity Steadily Increases, Owners and Veterinarians Share Views on Pet Food
2 Overweight dogs are more likely to display undesirable behaviours: results of a large online survey of dog owners in the UK
3 The Growing Problem of Obesity in Dogs and Cats
4 Brain monoamines, exercise, and behavioral stress: animal models
5 Exercise Enhances the Behavioral Responses to Acute Stress in an Animal Model of PTSD
6 Exercise builds brain health: key roles of growth factor cascades and inflammation
7 Pet Ownership, but Not ACE Inhibitor Therapy, Blunts Home Blood Pressure Responses to Mental Stress
8 Dog-assisted intervention significantly reduces anxiety in hospitalized patients with major depression
9 American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults
10 Exercise, physical activity, and self-determination theory: A systematic review
11 Physical activity motivating games: virtual rewards for real activity