The dogs in our lives are unconditional love machines. These beings of pure goodness deserve the best lives we can give them for the short time they’re here, and in many ways you can take care of yourself while taking care of them. Working out together is the perfect example. Not only is it important for yours and your pup’s physical health to be sure to get regular, appropriate exercise; it will bring the two of you even closer.
Dogs don’t look at exercise the same way many people do – it is a joy, not a chore, to them. Their eager enthusiasm for physical activity is infectious, so if you begin an exercise program with your pup, you’ll begin to look forward to your daily movement just as they do.
If that doesn’t convince you, then know this: Ensuring adequate daily exercise is the first course of action the best trainers recommend you take to address many naughty behaviors. It is an important component of responsible pet-parenting. Begin exercising your pup on a daily basis to reduce any excessive chewing, barking, anxiety, or aggression. Why not join in the fun if you’re already spending the time to do this!
When exercising with your dog ALWAYS pay close attention to how your dog is feeling and acting. Do not push your dog beyond their level of fitness. Understand dogs are more stoic about displaying any pain and will not likely display any dramatic signs that they need to stop. Of course it is important you stay safe as well – do not push either of you beyond your limits. Keep your pup-inclusive exercise fun!
To accomplish this, keep these things in mind:
Just as you need to ease into a new fitness routine, understand that the same is true for your pup. Don’t take it for granted that your dog is fit just because he is a dog. Even if your dog is already getting regular exercise, switching the type of activity might need to be done slowly.
I’m sad to say I learned this the hard way several years ago when I brought my mom’s dog along with me on a run. She wasn’t used to that type of activity and got sick after we’d been out for a short while. Luckily she recovered, and it didn’t cause any lasting, serious issues.
That said, if your dog is more fit than you, you want to make sure your dog isn’t rushing you into anything. For example, if your pup is super high energy, and you want to begin running or walking together, it might be a good idea for you to get out some of their excess energy before you hit the pavement. Consider a few rounds of fetch or have a short indoor play session beforehand to avoid the likelihood your pooch will be dragging you around the neighborhood. Set yourselves up for success!
During especially cold or hot times of year, get creative on finding ways to play and get your heart rates up indoors.
If you’d still like to go outdoors, you just need to take precautions.
For hot days: bring more water with you wherever you go, invest in a cooling vest for your pup, stick to shaded areas, keep your time outside to a minimum, and plan workouts for early mornings or evenings when the heat isn’t as intense. If you cannot hold your hand on the pavement for at least 5 seconds without burning, you need to make sure your pup has protective footwear on. And of course, never leave your pup alone in a vehicle. Check out this blog post to learn the signs of heat stroke.
For cold days: keep time outside to a minimum, If you’re too cold outside in your clothes, you pup is certainly cold. Provide your pup with protective footwear and some clothing as well.
My dog, Kylo (from the photo!) gets overheated relatively easily. Living in Phoenix, we have to be very careful. Even in cool weather, if the sun is out he can get really warm and needs his exercise sessions outdoors to be kept short. On sunny days to stretch the length of our sessions, I will seek out as much shade as possible. This keeps him more comfortable.
This is important for both of you! Bring water and a collapsible bowl for your pup with you when doing outdoor workouts.
Use reflective gear for the both of you if running or walking at night, and stick to well-lit areas.
Have your dog microchipped and registered with the county in which you live. Equip your dog’s collar or harness with ID tags.
If you will be regularly exercising in public areas, it will become vital that your dog has a strong recall and is well-socialized. Dog or people-aggressive dogs should be muzzled if you choose to walk them in public to protect them and everyone else who may or may not respect your personal space. You may also want to bring mace in the event you need to protect either of you from a dog/person attack.
Bring your phone with you when exercising away from home – whether hiking, walking, going for a run, etc. Should you or your dog have an emergency, you may need to call for help. I have had a couple of instances where I could tell Kylo had become uncomfortably hot and instead of walking him back home and risking heat stroke, I called Dominick to come scoop us up so he could get out of that situation as quickly as possible.
These things are as important for you as they are for your dog. If you are going to engage in activity together, make sure to include a warm up at the beginning and a cool down at the end of your session. Drink lots of water and give yourselves adequate recovery time between workouts.
High Intensity Interval Training is GREAT for both you and your pup. Basically you’ll alternate brief periods of all-out intensity exercise with brief periods of rest. A classic split is 30 seconds on/30 seconds off. You can adjust based on your fitness level, but your “all-out” shouldn’t last longer than 90 seconds. If you can go longer than that, you’re not actually pushing yourself to the max. This is highly individual, as one person’s all-out may be a brisk walk, while others win sprints at the Olympics! Fetch is essentially a HIIT workout for dogs, but it’s not much of a workout for you! HIIT workouts naturally are pretty short, so don’t feel like you need to get a 25 minute session in.
To get the benefits together here are a few ideas:
My dog LOVES to play fetch, but he doesn’t go all out after the ball or frisbee unless there is a little competition involved. To get him more revved up and get a workout for myself as well I have him “wait” (“stay” might be the command you use) while I run away (all-out) with the ball. When I am far enough away from him I give him his release command and throw the ball ahead of us, and we both run full-force toward the ball. If you catch the ball first, continue your run for as long as you can OR chase your pup around after he catches it for as long as you can.
Alternate all-out sprinting with walking rests. If you’re a trail runner, be mindful of your pups paws. Reminder: Make sure to warm-up and cool-down at the end with a brisk walk.
Chase your dog around. Have him chase you. Throw a toy, race to go get it. While playing fetch, jump around while your dog is chasing after their toy. You get the idea. Go all out goofy for a while, alternate with rest periods.
This can be done as a regular cardio session, but if you’d like to use it as a HIIT, keep the general concept in mind.
**Some trainers recommend avoiding chase games with your dog as it may encourage undesirable behaviors. I haven’t had any issues with this with Kylo, but understand your dogs personality and your preferences for play. If you begin seeing undesirable habits in your dogs you think could be due to this type of play, avoid it.
There are a couple of ways to go about this: your dog’s version of walking and walking as a workout.
I definitely encourage training your dog to be a loose leash walker rather than constantly being in the “heel” position, so that when you choose, your dog can have a leisurely walk where they get to read their pee-mail, take potty breaks, and (when permitted) interact with stimuli in their environment without pulling you around all over the place. This is more enrichment for them and less of a vigorous exercise, but I encourage at least some of their walks (or parts of them) be less strict so they can let loose and be dogs. While this won’t provide as much of a calorie-burn for you, it will certainly still help you to get your steps in and provide a means for physical and mental active recovery. Plus it feels great to get out in nature! To make even these less intense walks more active, do some squats while your pup is having a long sniff session or do a more challenging hiking trail. Nice hike trails are great, because then YOU have more enrichment as well!
You can also have a more focused, speed-walking workout. Speed walking is a great low-impact activity that can be made more challenging by choosing routes/trails with more incline. Without a bajillion sniff breaks, you will be getting more of a cardio workout, but the challenge will be to stay connected with your pup to keep encouraging them to stay focused and keep going. This can definitely strengthen the bond between you two. Consider bringing along some healthy snack for your pup and having them do a bit of training during these sessions to keep their focus on you. I like to use “wait” while I hold a treat out near Kylo’s face, and after a time, I will release him with “take it.” This keeps his focus away from the compelling smells and gives him a little exercise in self-control. He also responds well to words of encouragement.
When venturing away from home for a walk or hike, be sure to bring a first aid kit for your pup and know how to use it!
If you’re choosing to run with your pup, make sure they’re getting a version of a couch-to-5k program as they get started if you’re already a seasoned runner. Even pups who get regular play sessions and walks may not be ready to dive all in and be able to handle the physical demand of running at your pace.
It is also really important to stay in-tune with your dog throughout the run. I mentioned this in the beginning of this post, but I want to highlight this point again. Many people love to just get into the music coming through their headphones and can tune-out the outside world. Do not do this when you bring your pup with you. Make sure you’re staying aware not only of how he’s feeling throughout the run, but being aware of any of his triggers that may pop up to keep the two of you safe. Kylo’s kryptonite is bunnies. He must have bad eyesight, because I can usually spot bunnies before he does, and that gives me time to prepare: I pull him close and keep him distracted so he doesn’t bolt and try dragging me through a ditch.
Just as with speed-walking, it may take occasional encouragement and praise to keep your dog focused on you and the run versus stopping to take lots of sniff breaks.
When I started running with a running lead, it was a total game changer. If you don’t have one already, you’ll thank me for this tip.
Especially for runs – bring extra poop bags.
There are some fun dog-inclusive sports you can both get into if you want to go above and beyond to make this a true hobby for the two of you to enjoy together.
Canicross: Cross country racing with your pup
Dog inclusive 5/10ks
Doga: Dog yoga. It’s a thing.
Agility training: As your dog’s handler you’ll be running around with them!
Swimming: If you have access to an indoor pool for the both of you to swim in, this is a really fun option and is especially great to get them exercise when it’s hot outside. Never let your dog have access to the pool without supervision. Equip your dog with a life vest, and take it slow with introductions to the pool. **With this and all other activities, do not force your pup to do anything that causes distress for them.
Kayaking/Canoeing: This won’t really get your pup much exercise, but they will appreciate the time with you and the mental stimulation so long as they’re not fearful of water or the equipment. Make sure your dog knows how to swim and ALWAYS wears a life vest on trips.
Dog-inclusive boot camps: Fitness classes for you and your pups. Available at the coolest gyms 🙂
Dog dancing: There are competitions for this.
Many people get dogs to help motivate them to get fit. They’re the most eager workout buddies! Even if that wasn’t your motivation for getting your dog, it is a part of responsible pet ownership to provide your pup with much-needed exercise. Why not join in the fun?
I’m real, real into being the best furmama I can be. Staying fit with my baby angel is one way I go about it. Hope you’ve gotten some inspo from this post to use for your pup-inclusive family!
Thanks for reading!
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