Dogs are social creatures. They respect the pack structure and in their own canine way end up with a job. If they don’t have help from the pack leader (hopefully, you) they will choose their own job.

Sometimes that job is as simple as accompanying the leader. My mental picture here is my husband’s loyal black lab, Ike, walking slowly behind him everywhere he goes.

Sometimes, however, the job choice isn’t a good one. Left to their own devices and with a lack of human interaction and support, a dog may choose chewing, barking, chasing animals and cars. These are frequently the dogs that find themselves being rehomed or labeled “bad dogs.”

How can you help your dog choose wisely? April is National Canine Fitness Month. It’s an opportunity to include our dogs in our workout and training routines – and give them a worthy, satisfying job.

I personally love agility competitions. I’ve competed with mixed breeds, chihuahuas and even Russian Wolfhounds. Agility is usually a large field covered with obstacles like fences, tunnels, see-saws and tires, basically a large playground. It is a team sport and tests the ability of the team to maneuver a specified path through, over and around obstacles.

Another fitness option is Obedience, where dogs sit, stay, retrieve, follow and perform as a good canine citizen. A new addition to obedience is Rally Obedience, which involves the dog following the owner around several stations instead of just waiting for the judge to ask for tasks.

Fly ball and discus (Frisbee) sports are readily available for those breeds that love to catch and run. There is a degree of fitness and muscle memory needed.

For purpose-bred breeds, owners are finding much more access to options for training and competition. Herding competitions, earth-dog, barn dog and lure coursing are some of the options available.

With all fitness options, remember to start both your dog and yourself slowly.

We all select a dog for different reasons. Our lives are enhanced by physical fitness, mental stimulation, physical activity and companionship. So are our pets’ lives. In honor of Canine Fitness Month, let’s treasure our dogs, enhance their fitness and give them a job. It will be the most fun you have probably never thought you would have.

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