A new year signifies a new start for many of us, and nothing makes that transition smoother than some good old-fashioned accountability, right? And who makes a better accountability partner than our fun, ever-supportive four-legged friends?

As many of us settle into our newly minted routines and resolutions, it’s important to recognize that our pets need the very same things we do for enriched well-being – nutritious food and play, variety and stimulation, love and encouragement. It’s up to us to make sure they are happy and healthy – not just in 2022, but for many years to come.

The good news? Taking care of our pets’ physical and mental health boosts ours too. Research shows that regularly walking your dog improves heart and joint health for both species by lowering the risk of obesity. Likewise, spending time together on a walk is a wonderful way for people and pets to nurture their relationships while experiencing the fascinating and restorative elements of nature. But, as you’ll see, walks are just one way to reap the mutual health benefits of the human-animal bond.

Enrichment comes in many forms and often looks different depending on your pet’s species, age, overall health, and individual personality. When it comes to dogs, Jess C., Behavior and Transfer Manager for the Dumb Friends League, says good health goes far beyond exercise and regular veterinary check-ups. “By giving your dog access to mental outlets such as food puzzles, sniffy walks at the dog’s pace, and opportunities to lick and chew on appropriate items (such as LickiMats and stuffed Kongs), you will usually see a noticeable improvement in problematic behaviors, or at the very least, you’ll see them get better, deeper sleep,” Jess said.

Better sleep for them means better sleep for you. It’s essential to get those Zzzs so you’re well-rested for the physical exercise that will help you both accomplish your fitness goals. But physical activity isn’t just about getting steps in! According to Jess, exploring the sensory world with our dogs gives them an outlet for frustrated, pent-up energy that may otherwise turn toward destructive or other problematic behaviors.

“Keeping our exercise routines with our dogs consistent, yet exciting and novel, can promote not only their physical health but also the human-animal bond,” Jess said. Just as with any thoughtful goal, it can be helpful to create a daily plan and write it down to help set it in motion. Get a jumpstart with tips on canine mental and physical enrichment below. And have fun! These activities are sure to put a spring in your step as well.

Walking, running, hiking

  • Physical: You don’t have to be a dedicated runner to give your dog the exercise he needs! A quick walk around the block or some intermittent running/walking will help tire out even the most energetic pup.
  • Mental: Let your dog stop and sniff for as long as he wants! Allowing your dog to engage his sensitive nose is mentally stimulating.

Toy time

  • Physical: Interactive games like tug and fetch will require you both to get up and move! Just be sure to incorporate regular breaks to keep your dog from getting too worked up.
  • Mental: Puzzle toys will satisfy your pup’s instinctual nature by requiring her to “earn” her dinner, while search or find-it games will engage your dog’s sense of smell. Hide treats around your home and let those dogs sniff them out!

To find more enrichment and playtime recommendations for your dog, click here.

Don’t have a four-legged accountability partner? Looking to add a new friend to your crew? Adopt one of our most active dogs for 50% off the regular adoption fee during the month of January! Just look for the “Active Dog” stickers on their kennels when you visit us at the Dumb Friends League Leslie A. Malone Center. Here’s to a healthy and enjoyable new year ahead for you and your animal friends!