Fit as a Dog: 8 Exercises You Can Do With Your Dog
Dogs make great pets not only because they provide companionship and love, but also because they often make great workout partners. The experience of exercising with your dog can be very rewarding.
Not only will it provide much-needed exercise for both of you, but it’s also a great way to deepen the bond between the two of you. Here are eight exercises or physical activities you can do with your furry friend to help keep you both in shape.
Take Long Walks
Walking is one of the easiest and most effective exercises you can do with your dog. Besides allowing your dog the chance to do their business, walking gets you both moving which helps to improve cardiovascular health and reduce stress levels.
Just like in humans, obesity can lead to many health complications including liver disease, osteoarthritis, and insulin resistance. Providing your dog with the mental stimulation that accompanies walks around the neighborhood can help them avoid anxiety or becoming destructive within the home.
Going on regular walks can also help strengthen the connection between you and your dog, while allowing you to possibly work on behavioral training. Plus, all those sensory experiences like new smells and unfamiliar people they might meet along the way will create an excellent opportunity for your dog to see and learn new things. You too may end up meeting fellow neighbors and discovering things in your own neighborhood you had failed to notice before.
Aim for at least 30 minutes of walking per day to keep you and your dog healthy. Always keep your dog on a lead unless you are visiting a beach or park that allows for off-lead play. And remember to clean up after your pet and keep them well hydrated as you would do for yourself.
Hit Up the Dog Park
Going to a local dog park gives you access to even more activities since the area is typically rather large. Dog parks are also an excellent place for your dogs like golden retriever puppies who can meet and socialize with other dogs, and they allow you to make friends with other dog owners.
Many dog off-lead areas are fenced and often provide benches, safe drinking water, waste bins and plastic bags to clean up after your dog, and shelters in case of rain. They may even have specialized equipment for your dog to do agility drills.
It’s recommended that puppies should be at least 3 months old before being taken to dog parks for their safety from other older dogs. If you know your dog is prone to being aggressive, you may want to rethink going to a dog park and maybe opt for one of the other activities on this list.
Tug-of-war is a fun game that can provide one of the more intense forms of exercise for you and your dog. Not only does it help to build strength and endurance, but it also helps to strengthen the bond between you and your furry friend much like walking your dog.
Tug-of-war can be a great way to help your dog build confidence when you allow them to win once in awhile. It can also be used as a tool to help increase their impulse control, reinforce basics of obedience training, and redirect destructive chewing.
There are a few safety tips to follow when it comes to tug-of-war with your dog. Ensure all toys involved are safe for both you and your pet. They should be made of soft and flexible material and large enough to avoid you getting accidentally bitten.
You should avoid playing tug-of-war with your dog if they have dominance-related aggression, dental problems that may be worsened by such play, have arthritis, or are young puppies with young jaws and teeth that are still developing.
Always play in a large area free from clutter and unsafe objects, be sure to tug from side to side rather than up and down, and show them you are in control by teaching them a release command early.
Playing fetch is another great way to get your dog moving and burn some calories. Most dogs love running after their favorite ball or frisbee. Playing fetch is a classic game that ensures lots of running around for both of you and once again plenty of quality bonding time.
It also helps to improve your dog’s hand-eye coordination, focus, and concentration. It allows them to show off their catching or retrieving talents and be rewarded with your praise. Another benefit of playing fetch with your dog is that it allows you to work on obedience training as you teach them commands like “drop it”, “come”, or “wait”.
Retrieving is in the DNA of many dog breeds such as you guessed it… retrievers. Don’t push your dog to play fetch or get upset of they seem uninterested, as some breeds simply just aren’t bred to retrieve.
Be sure to use softer toys to avoid injuries, especially in younger puppies, and play in an open area where your dog can run freely. Having designated toys to play fetch with in public places can also help deter them from chasing wild animals or picking up random objects they find outdoors that may not make suitable toys.
Set Up an Obstacle Course
Creating a fun obstacle course for your dog is easy and can be achieved simply by sourcing items that are likely already lying around your house. You could use things like hula hoops, chairs, logs, poles, and cones.
Obstacle courses are a great way for dogs of any age to learn to obey various commands while also improving their balance and agility. A good obstacle course should include jumping and weaving obstacles as well as ramps and tunnels.
Be sure to use objects that won’t potentially injure your dog and put thought into creating a course that can easily be set up and broke down. If you don’t feel motivated to create your own course, search online for dog obstacle courses and training centers that may be located near you.
Take up Swimming
Swimming is one of the best exercises available for dogs. It is a low-impact exercise that is perfect for older dogs or those with joint issues and various injuries. Not only does it provide a great cardiovascular and respiratory workout, but it also helps to build muscle and improve flexibility.
Your dog will gain more physical health benefits from swimming in far less time than they would simply walking. Some dogs are born to swim, much like some are born to retrieve, while others with smaller legs or flat muzzles are often poor swimmers and shouldn’t be pushed to swim as it can be unsafe exercise for them.
It’s best to stick to shallow bodies of water that provide easy-to-manage steps or other simple way for your dog to get safely out of the water. Even if no dog-friendly swimming pools are nearby, you could travel to a local lake, river, or beach.
Just make sure natural sources of water are free from potential predators or dangers such as animals like alligators or stinging jellyfish, and never leave your dog unattended around bodies of water. Stay clear of rivers with strong currents and be aware of potential ocean rip currents.
A swim is a great way for your dog to cool off on a hot summer day but make sure other times of the year that the water is warm enough for them to swim. Try not to allow them to drink ocean water or potentially unsafe water from lakes, rivers, or pools with chemicals.
When you can see your dog is a confident swimmer, you can add in a bit of water fetch to the mix. If they aren’t a very agile swimmer, then consider getting them a specialized dog flotation vest
Practice Agility Training Sessions
Agility training is a fun and challenging way to keep your dog fit and healthy. Agility training is similar to setting up a simple backyard obstacle course, but more organized and potentially competitive if you choose to enter competitions.
There are usually far more obstacles involved and it involves using specialized equipment such as high jumps and weave poles. In addition to being a great workout for both you and your dog, it’s also a way to build trust with your dog.
Agility training is usually done at dedicated centers that guarantee a safe course for your dog. You should still get clearance from your vet if you plan on signing your dog up for agility training. Agility training can often lead to the desire to enter timed obstacle competitions which can be rewarding for both you and your dog as you compete and test your skills against other dogs and their handlers.
Get Hiking in Nature
If you love the great outdoors, hiking with your dog is a great way to get fit. Not only does it provide a challenging workout, but it also helps to improve cardiovascular health. Keep in mind not all breeds are suited to true wilderness walks and make sure your dog is healthy and fit enough before taking them on rugged trails
Much like you would do for yourself, make sure to choose trails that are suited to your dog’s ability in terms of terrain and elevation gain. Make sure your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations and parasite treatments. You may also want to spray them with dog-safe insect repellent to keep ticks and other critters away.
Be mindful of leash laws and note that many wilderness areas such as national parks may prohibit dogs. You will want to make sure your dog has some form of ID tags and bring along treats or food for them as well as water and easy-to-carry collapsible bowls they can drink from.
Make sure to clean up after your dog since leaving their feces in the wild can pose a risk to native wildlife. Monitor your dog for signs of exhaustion, take breaks, and consider protective clothing and/or dog boots to protect their coats and feet when tackling dense brush and rougher terrain.
Trail running is another great option if you and your dog are up for a more challenging workout. Start with shorter distances and gradually increase the time and distance to avoid injury.
Exercising with your dog is just one of the many benefits of dog ownership. Incorporating these various activities into you and your dog’s physical fitness regime helps you stay active together while deepening your bond over time.
From walking and swimming to visiting the dog park and making an obstacle course, there’s something for everyone. Just be sure to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts to avoid injury. With a little bit of effort and a lot of love, you and your furry friend can achieve your fitness goals together.