Our dogs certainly fill our lives with love and companionship. They also fill our lives with potential—the potential to get up off the couch, step away from the electronic devices, and get moving! After all, who can resist those puppy-dog eyes looking at you, begging for a walk, hike, or just a game of fetch? For them, getting out is a treat. It can also be a great way to not only bond with your pet, but to keep both of you healthier.
Sure, there are some dogs who are happier with a leisurely stroll instead of a run up a mountain trail. And unless your veterinarian has told you your dog shouldn’t take a walk, it’s a great excuse to get in your exercise, as well.
What are some ways you can get fit with your dog?
Fetch. Even if your dog isn’t great at retrieving, the fact that he is running and chasing it is ideal exercise and you can work with him on bringing it back to you. You will get exercise by tossing the ball and going to retrieve it if your dog doesn’t.
Swimming. Bear in mind not all dogs like water and not all dogs can swim. If, however, your dog loves the water, that is a great way for the two of you to spend time in an exercise you both enjoy. Consider putting your dog in a pet safety vest for swimming, and ensure your dog can safely leave the water when he’s ready.
Take a hike. Pack up the water, a collapsible bowl for your dog, some snacks and hit the trail. If you’re both new to hiking, start with a small trek and build up to longer, more challenging trails. Take frequent water breaks. Keep your dog on a leash, especially if you don’t know the terrain or whether you will encounter other dogs on the trail. And be sure to protect your dog’s paws, especially on hot paved surfaces.
Explore the neighborhood. Some dogs simply aren’t built for strenuous exercise, especially brachycephalic breeds like Pugs, Bulldogs or Boston Terriers; this isn’t to say they don’t need and won’t benefit from exercise, but they aren’t built for miles-long treks.
Editor’s Note: Flat-faced dog breeds—like French Bulldogs and Boston Terriers—have unique breathing challenges when it comes to exercising. Here are tips on safely exercising your flat-faced dog.
Pet obesity is a problem that can be helped by exercising. Know your dog’s limitations. Unless your veterinarian has said your dog can’t take a walk, there isn’t a dog who can’t benefit from a bit of exercise. An active dog is a happy dog!
Teach your dog a trick.Trick-training can be as simple as sitting up for a treat or as tricky as jumping through a hoop. You can go online or take a class to learn how to teach your dog tricks. Trick training could be teaching him to retrieve and return to you, and to drop it. (That will make a game of fetch more fun!)
Agility courses. If you have an agile, active dog teach him to take on an agility course. You can sign up for a class and or join an open agility class in which you and your dog can run the course. Agility will get you up and moving as you will run the course with your dog while he goes through tunnels, jumps through rings, weaves through the weave poles and runs up on the seesaw.
You don’t have to have a tiny, fast dog to have fun with an agility course. Running an agility course is fun for larger dogs, especially if you’re doing it for a fun way to shake up your usual fitness routine with your dog.
Doga.Yoga for/with dogs is a trend many pet parents are embracing. Let’s face it, dogs naturally are great at downward facing dog! Many dog owners are getting their dogs involved in yoga by either teaching their dogs to do some of the stretches or even by having their dogs stand on them while they do the stretches (yoga gurus say a dog standing on you helps with your stretch.)
Go running.Many dogs love, and require, a long run to be happy and healthy. If you teach your dog to walk and run on a leash when she is young, then you will have a great running companion as she gets older. Be sure to speak with your veterinarian first: Giant breed puppies—like Mastiffs, Great Danes or even Labrador Retrievers—will certainly enjoy a long walk or even a hike, but any kind of running should wait until they reach skeletal maturity.
No matter what size or breed of dog you share your life with, grab a leash, grab some water and get out and enjoy nature together! You’ll both be happier and healthier for it.
Robbi Hess, award-winning author, is multi-petual: She shares her home with two Devon Rex kittens, three adult rescue cats, a mini poodle, a Goldendoodle, three lizards and two ferrets. When not caring for her pets, she is an editor, speaker, time management and productivity guru, content creator, social media manager and blogger. She writes at All Words Matter, My Divas Dish, and is the story editor and chief cat herder at Positively Woof.