6 Ways to Exercise with Your Dog
Is the treadmill getting a little lonely and dull? Do you wish you had a comforting, furry presence to make your fitness sessions a little more fun? New to the city and lacking human workout partners? Take a cue from hundreds of thousands of other folks and start exercising with your dog.
Dogs, humans and fitness go together like a leash, harness and dog ID tag. In fact, dogs need exercise just like humans do. Giving your dog the proper amount of physical activity is a key part of keeping them healthy and mentally stimulated.
There are tons of ways to exercise with your dog that are fun, healthy and social distancing-friendly. Below, we’ll take a look at six of the best.
A good, brisk walk is an easy and enjoyable way to get some exercise for both you and your pooch. If your dog is a less athletic breed, such as an English bulldog or shih tzu, walking is a good exercise that won’t put them under excessive physical strain. And if you have a more active breed, like a border collie or Weimaraner, a daily walk (preferably two) is the bare minimum your pooch needs.
Walking is also an important way to give a dog mental stimulation. Give your dog time to stop and sniff the things they find interesting, and take a variety of routes around your neighborhood to give them some variety of experience. Make sure to obey good dog walking etiquette, including being aware of other dogs and how your dog reacts to them, using a properly fitted muzzle if necessary and having a plan (and a bag) for disposing of dog waste.
Running can be great for some dogs, who will love the exercise and the chance to run with their “pack” (i.e., their humans). With a little bit of training, most athletic dogs can learn to keep pace with a human runner, although they’ll still almost always need to be on a leash. Many runners find that the easiest method is to use a leash that attaches to the owner’s waist.
However, running isn’t for every dog. Brachycephalic (squashed-nose) breeds such as pugs and English bulldogs, as well as most dogs with short, stumpy legs, generally aren’t well-suited to running. You should also be sure to take proper precautions for your dog’s health and safety, including:
- Bring some water for your dog to drink
- Start with shorter runs and work your way up to longer ones
- Don’t run on asphalt that’s too hot for prolonged skin contact, as it can hurt your dog’s paws
- Consult your vet before running with a puppy or an older dog
Just about every dog enjoys playing fetch. Running down a thrown toy triggers a dog’s primordial hunting drives and gives them the satisfaction of doing what they do best. And of course, there are a million things in the world that are perfect for fetching: Frisbees, tennis balls, sticks.
Since playing fetch necessarily involves letting your dog off a leash, it’s important to take some extra safety steps if you’re going to play fetch in a public place such as a dog park. You need to be able to reliably command your dog off-leash, and your dog should be socialized well enough that they won’t react aggressively to any humans or other dogs that might happen along. In addition, make sure your dog is sporting dog ID tags and a microchip in case they get lost.
For the more adventurous dog owner who loves to see the great outdoors, hiking is a great choice. Start your dog off with some shorter and easier hikes to get them used to navigating trails. After all, your dog needs to build up cardiovascular endurance just like you do.
Hiking with a dog requires many of the same safety and etiquette precautions as running. Keep your dog on the leash throughout the hike unless the park specifically allows off-leash dogs, and make sure you bring supplies to clean up any messes. Try to choose trails with plenty of shade, and don’t hike with your dog on excessively hot days.
Although it’s not true that all dogs know how to swim or enjoy doing it, many do. And there’s an easy way to find out whether yours does or not: Take them to the water and find out! As an exercise, swimming is just as beneficial for a dog as it is for a human, and you and your four-legged friend can have a lot of fun splashing around and playing fetch.
Swimming safely with a dog means keeping a close eye on your pup at all times, especially if you don’t yet know if they’re a strong swimmer. And if you’re on a boat or in an area with potentially rough waters, a life jacket for your dog is a must-have. Dogs can have a hard time rescuing themselves if they get in trouble, so it’s essential to use a combination of vigilance and discernment in choosing a body of water that’s safe for them to enjoy.
If you have an athletic dog breed and the two of you work well as a unit, cycling could be a sport that’s worth trying. It requires even more coordination than running with a dog, but it can also provide just the kind of strenuous exercise that big, born-to-run breeds like Dalmatians and Vizslas need.
If you’re going to try riding with your dog, choose a safe area such as a park where your dog won’t have to deal with the danger of cars and trucks. And as always, monitor your dog carefully for signs of exhaustion, cutting the ride short if necessary.
Exercising with your dog can help you get in shape, improve your dog’s health and foster a closer bond between you and your pooch. So long as you make sure to follow all the right safety precautions, you might find yourself with a new forever workout partner.