Your dog can be more than just a furry friend—he or she can be your better health buddy too. Many studies suggest that caring for or simply being around dogs can reduce loneliness and help you feel more satisfied. Spend time with your canine companion while getting a workout by trying an agility class, where you and your dog work together to complete an obstacle course. “It’s great exercise and mental stimulation,” says Aschley Kezeske, owner and lead trainer of Ruffgers Dog University in Naples.
Participants begin by learning the basic obstacles. As you master each one, you’ll put them together and progress to more complex actions. While it does take some physical effort, the obstacles can be adapted, with lower jumps or a shorter course available. Kezeske says a trainer can also help run with your dog, if necessary.
Your dog should have some obedience training, such as sitting and responding to their name. Beyond that, any breed and nearly any age can participate. “They’re never too old,” says Kezeske. “They can always learn new stuff, and they really enjoy that.” She adds that the training can also increase a dog’s mobility, help with weight loss, and benefit overall health.
Looking for other ways to spend time with your furry friend? Kezeske suggests teaching them a new trick or giving them a job. “Dogs really appreciate having a purpose,” she explains. If being out in town or in nature is more your style, you can also socialize together at these dog-friendly local spots:
• Restaurants: Eat outdoors with your dog at The Boathouse on Naples Bay, Chez Boët, or EJ’s Bayfront Café in Naples.
• Parks: Visit Naples Dog Park, a free, no-leash park that offers areas for large and small dogs.
• Beaches: Spend the day at the Bonita Springs Dog Beach, where your dog can run and swim off-leash before rinsing off at a shower station.