Last week, Out's editors sat down with healthy living expert Jesse Brune-Horan to talk all things pet nutrition. As a devoted husband and father of two gorgeous dogs, Sammy and Bodhi, Jesse has a lot to balance. This week we’re talking all things exercise and well-being. We get his advice on how to stay active, accommodate that LA-heat, and keep his pets feeling happy, healthy, and loved.
Out: What are your favorite ways to keep you and your pet active?
Jesse Brune-Horan: Getting outside to play is our favorite way to stay active while connecting with one another.
Living in Los Angeles, we’re given a multitude of options when it comes to outdoor activities. There are so many wonderful trails, parks and beaches that are pet-friendly, it makes it very easy to take the whole family out for some air and exercise. We love finding new hiking trails. Runyon Canyon is the most popular spot for dog owners in L.A. and we also explore Kenneth Hahn State Park, Griffith Park and Fryman Canyon. All of which are within 30 minutes from our house. When our dogs see the blanket that goes over the back seats in the car come out of the closet, they know an outdoor adventure is coming their way and they freak out. There’s few things more satisfying than seeing our dogs get overwhelmed with J-O-Y.
How do you involve your pet in everyday exercise routines?
There’s a certain amount of discipline that goes into caring for your pet. We understand that exercise is an essential part of our pets’ well being. We do our best to get outside to parks and hiking trails, but when that’s not possible we make sure to walk them multiple times during the day.
We’ve created rituals around walking the boys so it’s something that we look forward to and doesn’t feel like a chore. For example, we save the longest walk of the day for after dinner, when it’s cooler outside. This serves multiple purposes because it gives the dogs an opportunity to exercise and it helps us digest our meal. This is also the time we talk about challenges we’re moving through in our lives. This is what I mean about creating ritual, I'm taking care of my pets and I get to have time to really connect with my husband. I love these walks and look forward to them, and best of all everyone benefits from the experience.
Summer in LA can be brutally hot. How do you accommodate for your dogs when you’re outside?
This is a real issue. It’s CRUCIALLY important that everyone knows how essential it is to have extra water for your pet when doing any activity outside, especially in the summer months. I’ve seen really tragic situations unfold because people were unprepared in the heat and overestimated the capacity of their dog. Our pets are living, breathing animals and they need water just as much as we do.
If it’s a particularly hot day we absolutely will NOT go hiking. We opt for walks in the neighborhood, especially at night and we make sure to have a water bottle with us in case it feels like we need drench the dogs to help them stay comfortable. Most of the time it comes down to common sense. This might seem harsh to say but I truly believe that you should learn how to take care of yourself properly before you take on the responsibility of caring for another living creature.
You said your younger dog, Bodhi, needs to run around a lot in order to stay sane. What are some of the specific ways you keep him happy?
Since our other dog is an elder dog, it’s not unusual for me to take him on a slow walk around the block while my husband takes Bodhi on a hike or to the park to run some laps. The key to Bodhi is to just make sure he’s moving … always moving! He loves to be chased, so he really thrives at the dog park. He’s anything but shy so he’ll take a moment to see where the action is and dive right into rough housing with other dogs.
We’re still learning how to create a balance between the two dogs because their exercise needs are so different now. We do our best to make sure that everyone gets the equal amount of walks, even if we’re taking different routes these days.
And for Sammy, how do you make sure he’s comfortable and healthy, while at the same time making sure he stays as active as he can?
We mostly focus on Sammy’s nutrition. He’s slowed down so much this year that we’re really conscious of not over-extending him with exercise, which took some adjusting because he’s always been so active. I’ve learned that if you pay attention your pets will communicate what they can and can’t do.
Summer also means Sammy gets shaved. We take him to our favorite Eco Friendly Groomer Sam’s Green Paw over in Studio City. It’s a drive over the canyon from where we live now but it’s where Sammy feels safest and most loved. Plus you should see the relief in his eyes and the lightness in his step when he comes out freshly shaved of all that extra heat and body hair. He loves us for it every time.
In addition to a really balanced meal with supplements for his joints and skin, I’ve started to do mini massage and stretching sessions with him before bed. I can tell it feels good because he nudges me when he thinks I’m stopping, encouraging me to continue on.
This dog has been with me for my entire adult life. It’s my pleasure to do what I can to make sure he feels good, feels seen and feels loved.
How does proper exercise and activity affect your pets’ behavior and wellbeing?
I do a lot of work as a life coach and counselor. One of the most helpful suggestions I make to my clients who are moving through bouts of depression is to get some exercise each day. The exercise releases endorphins in the brain which help stabilize your mood. Runners call this “runners high”, it’s a boost of post-workout happiness.
Recent studies have shown that the same thing happens in dogs when they exercise. Physical activity not only keeps my pups physically well, it keeps them happy. I absolutely see a change in their personality and moods when they don’t get enough exercise. We make sure to create space in our daily routine to exercise our pets so they can enjoy their lives just as much as we do!