Owning a dog can give you multiple health benefits, from warding off depression to lowering blood pressure. According to Women’s Health, many dog owners don’t realize that taking the dog out counts as a sweat session. Your beloved pet can help you increase your fitness routines, but make sure he/she is physically fit to go on rigorous exercises with you. “Dogs should be evaluated by a veterinarian before starting a workout program,” Nicole Pajer wrote in Cesar’s Way. Some breeds are better equipped for exercise than others, so consider your dog’s age, size, breed, health, and environmental factors before making him your workout buddy. Once you get your vet’s go-signal, try incorporating these exercises into your daily walks:
1. Walk the human
If you’re used to taking Fluffy to specific paths around the neighborhood, change the routine by letting him take over. Let your dog lead you to his chosen paths and pace for a change, as long as you don’t trespass someone’s private lot or fall into a ditch. You’d be surprised to see where his nose takes you.
2. Obstacle course
You don’t have to enroll in a fancy dog training class or agility program. Just set up your own basic obstacle course in the garden or look around the neighborhood for random items, such as an elevated structure he can jump over or an uphill slope you can run on.
This simple game is versatile. It suits dogs of any breed or size, and you can do it for only a few minutes a day in a spacious garage indoors, in your garden, or at an empty lot outside. All you need is a wooden stick, your dog’s favorite ball, a Frisbee, or any toy that you can toss around for him to retrieve repetitively.
Dogs make great running partners, as long as they are over 18 months old, have the right stamina and size, and are cleared by the vet for this rigorous exercise. If you want to train your dog for running, Active.com suggests that you start with 10-minute runs, and add 10 minutes each week until you reach your desired time or distance. “Gradual build up allows for the muscles and connective tissue to adapt and grow to the activity without injury. With time, your dog will adapt to your pace.”
5. Bike or rollerblade
Best for large dogs, biking or rollerblading is a more advanced level of dog-human exercise. “Your dog should be at least a year old and at least 25 lbs. to start,” said Scott Daughtry of The Dog Outdoors. “They should be closer to a year and a half before biking longer distances. Please use common sense when biking [or rollerblading with] your dog. Build up stamina slowly and never push your dog beyond his/her means.” Use a special dog bike leash and let your dog walk or run next to you while you pedal or skate.
- Consult your vet to see if your dog’s size, age, breed, and health can handle specific exercises.
- Don’t just dive into an exercise routine. Start slow and gradually build your dog’s stamina before doing something rigorous.
- Research online about the dog activity you want to try to get tips from other owners who have tried it and to see how different breeds handle it.
- Don’t overdo the exercise or push your dog beyond his/her physical limits. Keep an eye on him throughout your routine to see if he is exhibiting signs of exhaustion, such as excessive panting, trouble breathing, pain, and soreness.
- Always keep your dog hydrated, especially during humid or warm weather. Bring a water bottle and travel bowl for your dog aside from your own stash of fresh water.
- Check your dog after the workout. Check his/her skin and feet for cuts, scrapes, or other potential injuries. Give plenty of water to replenish.