Dogs make the best workout buddies! They never complain or cancel on you last minute, and as creatures of habit they will hold you accountable for getting outdoors and stretching your legs. And, their energy is contagious: studies show that canine owners are 34% more likely to get the recommended 150 minutes of exercise a week than folks who do not own a dog.
Big or small, young or old, all dogs need daily exercise to stay healthy and content. While some breeds have special needs that have to be taken into account, and dogs do slow down as they age, they still need to take part in some form of daily physical activity. Exercising together also means spending more time together – which will help the bond between you and your dog strengthen even more.
Before beginning an exercise program
Before you begin an exercise program with your dog, be sure to visit your veterinarian for a health check. Your doctor can recommend an exercise plan that is best appropriate for your dog’s age, breed and condition. Plan to start out slowly and work your way up to longer walking or play routines as they seem suitable. Additionally, don’t forget to allow for a warm-up period and cool-down time at the end of each session. A leisurely walk around the block should suffice to warm up or cool down your dog’s muscles.
Here are a few fun ways to exercise with your pet
Jogging: While not all dogs are built for marathons, most dogs in good health enjoy running, even if it’s only a couple of miles! Concerned your little pooch won’t keep up? The truth is – most small dogs have more energy than big dogs. Just like humans, it may take a while for your dog to build up its running endurance. Start out slower and work your way up to those long runs.
Be careful about running in heat and humidity. Because dogs don’t sweat like humans do, they can easily suffer from heatstroke when running during the summer months. Schedule your runs early in the morning or later in the evening, avoiding the highest temperature and strongest sun of the day. Choose shaded routes to avoid hot pavement that can burn your dog’s pads. Both you and your dog need to stay hydrated during your runs – especially in hot conditions. Carry a water bottle and plan a route that includes several water stops.
Riding Your Bike: Got a dog with a lot of pent-up energy? Allow them to run longer distances by biking with them! May is National Bike Month, a great time to pump up your tires, fasten your helmet, and begin to train your dog to run along next to you as you bike. For your safety and Fido’s, purchase a bike attachment to stably tether your dog to your bike’s side. Any distractions that cause your dog to pull away can cause both of you to take a tumble.
It may take your dog a while to get used to biking. Start off by walking the bike along with the dog just to get Fido acquainted with being attached to the bike. Do practice “runs” while teaching your dog commands for slowing down, making turns, stopping, and bringing your dog’s attention back to you. We strongly advise to sticking to designated bike path or terrain where you’re unlikely to encounter traffic from other vehicles.
Swimming: Get your doggie paddle on! If your dog enjoys splashing in the water, swimming may be one of Fido’s favorite ways to exercise with you. To add a little more excitement to the activity, bring along a ball or other object that floats for your dog to swim after and fetch. It’s a great way to cool down and stay healthy on hot days. For dogs that aren’t natural swimmers, purchase a life jacket for them so they can enjoy fun in the water.
Agility Training: Dogs, like humans, like a good challenge! In agility training, a dog and handler complete an obstacle course as accurately as possible and in as short time as they can. It’s a highly athletic event that requires training, teamwork and concentration. Many dog parks have agility equipment, like tires for dogs to jump through, tunnels for them to run through, and beams for them to walk up. When first beginning agility training, be sure to bring small-sized treats to better incentivize your dog to tackle the obstacles.
Baseball and/or Tennis: Ok, so your dog might not be the best doubles partner, and they will strike out every time they are at bat. However, dogs make great outfielders! Hitting balls with a baseball bat or tennis racket are inexpensive ways to send balls soaring and will keep your dog running across the yard.
Working out with your dog doesn’t just benefit both of your health. It can also be a real treat for your pet. Your dog looks forward to spending time with you and pleasing you. They won’t judge you for skipping workouts, though it is tough to say no when you have to face their wagging tail.