Humans and dogs derive many of the same benefits from regular exercise. Activities like running, hiking, swimming, and game play all help build muscle, combat obesity, promote heart health, and improve mood in people as well as dogs.
Here are a few suggestions for creating a healthy exercise routine both you and your pup can enjoy?
Start with a Wellness Check
Both you and your pet should be healthy enough for regular exercise—so a wellness check for each of you is a good place to start. Remember that some dog breeds can withstand more strenuous exercise than others. Working breeds like retrievers, shepherds, and collies are energetic and robust animals that are likely to enjoy a long hike or run, while some breeds like pugs and bulldogs can quickly become winded because of their short stature and narrow breathing passages.
It’s important to match your pet with the form of exercise that’s healthiest for both its breed and its specific health needs. If your pet has any specific health conditions that you believe may make routine exercise problematic, check with your vet before beginning a regular exercise regimen with your pet.
Playtime at the Park
If you’re a city-dweller, a neighborhood park may be the perfect place to exercise with your dog. A run or a game of Frisbee or fetch with a tennis ball may be all you and your pet need jumpstart your day.
Park time also offers your pet the chance to socialize with other animals, which is a great way to boost your dog’s mood while you take a breather. Small dogs might prefer a leisurely stroll to a full-on tussle, but either way, the time outdoors is good for both of you.
Camping & Hiking
If you’re more adventurous, try planning a day hike in the woods with your dog. Most rural hiking trails permit pets and in more isolated areas, you may be able to let your dog enjoy some off-leash time. Always be sure your animal is current on all vaccines and is equipped with some form of parasite prevention to discourage fleas and ticks. If your dog enjoys hiking, you may want to go a step further and try camping. Many campgrounds permit dogs or offer designated dog-friendly campsites. When you call to reserve a site, ask about the facility’s pet policies.
Not every dog is a born “aqua-bat,” but many enjoy a good swim on a hot day. A tennis ball is usually al you need to engage an eager dog in a game of fetch, and if your dog enjoys the water, a swim will provide a great way to cool down after a hike. Some dogs even enjoy a boat ride! (our last dog—a bullmastiff mix named Hammer—loved a canoe ride, provided we let him paw rocks out of the mud when we pulled ashore for lunch.) Some beaches even allow pets during the off-season—but always check before you go, as rules vary from community to community.
Running & Cycling
Some dogs will take any excuse for a run. A few will even run alongside their owner’s bike. If your dog is healthy enough and enjoys robust exercise, why not take them along! Here are some tips for tips to teaching your dog to walk and/or run with you.
Some dogs are content to get their exercise at home, but that shouldn’t stop you from exercising together. You can build a swing pole or even a doggie agility course in your own back yard. Whatever mode of exercise you choose, a brisk 30-minute activity period daily is usually enough to keep both your dog and you in shape.
We hope these tips help you and your pets have a fun, active, and healthy spring!
Editor’s Note: If you’re looking to welcome a dog into your home that fits your active lifestyle—hiking, running, swimming, etc.—check out these tips.
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.