Have you as an owner been doing at-home workouts during the quarantine? Let’s have your dog do one as well! Dogs can do body-weight exercises and balance challenges just like humans. They are a fantastic way to tire our dogs out, have fun and learn something new along the way. In dog sports such as agility, at-home fitness has long been a substantial aspect of conditioning and keeping dogs injury-free.
But dogs of all ages and breeds benefit from workouts at home (whether during the lockdown or afterwards). They are also a fantastic way to keep reactive dogs happy and busy - dogs that might not be able to go on walks generally.
Before You Start
Before you start your at-home dog training, make sure that your dog is not too tired. If he is sleepy, he will find the workout too difficult and not want to participate. You also should not try to train right after a mealtime.
Have some treats ready that he really likes and is willing to work hard for.
As a warm-up, let’s have your dog do some light jogging. Take your treats and toss them, one by one, around the room so your dog trots over, eats the treat, and then trots to the next one. Do this for at least 2 or 3 minutes to make sure your dog’s muscles are warm and ready.
Have your dog sit on a pillow (an air mattress also works well). Now take a treat and lure him forward in a standing position. The slower you lure him, the more challenging this will be for him. Dogs tend to use a lot of momentum in their movements, so taking out the momentum and asking them to do it with strength alone is not easy!
Once your dog has stood up, have him sit down again. Lure slowly so that he also has to use his muscles on the sitting part. Do about 5-10 repetitions of slowly getting up and sitting down on the pillow. If you notice your dog getting sloppy, he might be tired and need to quit the exercise sooner.
(But don’t worry - the more often you repeat this, the better his endurance will become!)
Up and Down
Now take a big pillow (or again, an air mattress). Lure your dog up with his front feet only and give him a treat. Next, have him step up with his hind feet as well. Lure down the front feet only, give him a treat, and then have him step off completely.
Again, if you do this slowly, he cannot use any momentum and has to really work his muscles to move in a controlled and coordinated fashion. It is quite astounding how tired our dogs can become after only a couple repetitions of this.
Do 5 repetitions of this exercise, then move onto:
Take a pool noodle and prop it up between two low objects such as stepping stools. Now have your dog on one side of it, take a treat and hold it on the other side close to the ground.
When your dog jumps over, let him have the treat, then hold a treat close to the ground on the opposite side so he jumps back.
Start out with 5 repetitions. Over time, dogs can grow impressive endurance in bouncing and bounce 20, 30 or 50 times!
It is very important that you always hold the treat close to the ground, so that your dog sees where he is going. Do not lure him over with the treat high up in the air - if he looks up and doesn’t watch where he is going, he could hurt himself.
Time to cool down! Never put your dog straight into a crate after a workout like this. His muscles need to cool down gradually. You could for example toss some cookies like during the warmup or hide some treats for him in different rooms.
In the beginning, only do these workouts 2-3 times a week. Dogs get sore just like us, and if you notice that your dog is suddenly much less enthusiastic about his workout, he may need a little longer to recover.
And now, have fun!