By Healey Lockett
OMG it’s everywhere! Herds roam parks and streets hunting the elusive Vaporeon, spurning common Pidgeys and Wheedles for the more rare pocket monsters. These Poke-Zombies stare at their phones and bump into strangers as stagger about.
It doesn’t have to be like that! If you’ve been living under a rock you haven’t heard, Pokémon Go is a free game app that is played by getting out and walking around. A refreshing change from huddling in dark basements chewing Cheetos, gamers now have to get some fresh air and exercise to play this game.
Your objective is to catch as many Pokémon as possible. As you walk around in the real world, Pokémon – little critters that like to fight – pop up on the game’s map; using GPS and your phone’s camera this game operates in augmented reality. Aim your camera and the game superimposes an image of the little monster in the display. You catch it by throwing a Pokeball at it, swiping the ball on the screen with your finger at the animated creature bouncing at you.
I am not a video gamer, but this app has me hooked. It’s easy and fun; I’ve discovered new levels of competitiveness I didn’t know I had. I walk twice as far now when I’m out and about because I’m hunting Pokémon. Because I walk with my dog, this means we’re both getting more exercise. Yay! Right?
If you need just a little more incentive to get you and your dog outside and exercising, consider giving Pokémon Go a try. But please, for everyone’s sake, be careful! People have walked off cliffs for crying out loud! If it’s you and your dog, you’ll have to be doubly aware, for both your sakes.
Keep these five tips in mind when you and your furry BFF are out on the Poke-hunt.
Safety. Safety. Safety. Always stay aware of where you are, and who is around you. Be aware of where your dog is and what he’s doing, as well as what people are doing to your dog. I’ve had people swat at, and startle, my dog when they thought I wasn’t looking. Then they found out my bark was worse than my dog’s.
Pay attention to your dog, not just your phone. These are public, sometimes busy places. Is your dog okay with this? Make sure it’s fun for him too, not an exercise in anxiety. If your dog isn’t used to being in crowds, start by taking him to less busy places first and gradually build to longer times and more crowded spaces.
How’s the weather? A beautiful sunny day is a great day for a walk, but Pokémon flourish in well-populated places that are often paved. Sunny days mean hot walkways, which can be uncomfortable or dangerous for your dog. Provide lots of breaks in the shade and water on hot days.
Can your dog walk that far? Confession time – more than once I’ve spent 2-3 hours out playing Pokémon Go with my dog. Xander is a young, healthy Great Pyrenees mix that regularly goes on long, strenuous hikes with me. A slow amble along the waterfront is a pleasant day out with Mom. This exact same activity would be torture for my 9-year-old Lab, Golly who has hip dysplasia. Be mindful of how much activity your dog can do. Golly loves short walks on even ground, exactly what my local shopping center – a Pokémon rich environment – can provide. This helps keep her in shape while not putting too much stress on her body. Plan your Pokémon Go sessions with your dog around their physical abilities, not yours.
Keep it clean. Encourage your dog to eliminate away from the most heavily traveled areas by taking them to grassy areas or curb strips frequently. Try to avoid letting your dog urinate where people would sit or linger like benches or low walls. Pick up solid waste and dispose of in trashcans. You could face a fine if you don’t pick up after your dog.
Want to double the fun? Make it a game for your dog and training time too! This extra time with your dog provides ample opportunity to train. Don’t be a Poke-Zombie; give your dog a fair division of your attention too. Wondering what to do besides hunt Pokémon?
• Practice behaviors like Sit, Down and Stay by posing your dog with the Pokémon and take pictures of them together.
• Teach her something new.
• Practice with distractions to teach her to focus and pay attention to you.
It’s no fun for her if you just drag her along at the end of the leash while you play on your phone. Make sure you’re paying at least as much attention to your dog as your game to help build the bond between you.
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