As adults it can be hard to find time to squeeze in daily trips to the gym between our other obligations. It can also be frustrating to pay a $40 monthly gym membership fee and not get $40 out of use from it. If you do make it to the gym, it means even more time that your dog is alone waiting for you to come and spend time with them. The good news for dog owners is that you don’t need a gym to get plenty of exercise; all you need to do is go and have fun with your dog.
Walking is the most basic form of exercise, as well as one of the best because it offers many health benefits. According to the Harvard Medical School, walking can help boost immunity, ease joint pain, reduces the risk of breast cancer, and even tame a sweet tooth. Walking also offers substantial health benefits for your dog, including digestive and joint health, mental exercise, and socialization.
If you and your dog have been hibernating on the sofa all winter, start off with short walks and build up to longer outings. If you live in a northern climate where ice melting products are used frequently, consider using booties on your dog or performing a post-walk paw wash after each walk. You can also find indoor dog parks or tracks in many locales. Some retail stores allow pets, like Home Depot, Bass Pro Shops, and most pet stores, so you and your pup can take a stroll through the aisles if your sidewalks are icy or salt covered.
Hiking is essentially walking on a more rugged path, and is the perfect activity for active breeds and their owners. Similar to starting a walking program, start with shorter, easier hikes and build up to more challenging terrain as long as you and your dog are both in good physical health.
Depending on where you live, the weather, the type of terrain, and the local wildlife, you may consider purchasing protective booties for your dog’s paws, a dog coat for cold climates and breeds with sparse coats, and an emergency sling or harness that you can use should your dog be injured while on your hike and need to be carried to safety. Remember to always take sufficient water for both you and your dog. If you are going on long hikes together, some manufacturers offer energy bars made just for athletic dogs that you can easily toss into your backpack along with your own snacks.
Some dogs make great running partners if they have been properly trained with good leash walking skills and are in top physical shape. Always check with your veterinarian before starting to run with your dog and start slowly to allow your dog to gain stamina and strength and avoid injury.
The American Kennel Club website has great information on how to incorporate your pup into your running program: https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/how-to-train-your-dog-to-run-with-you.
Runner’s World Magazine also offers some tips on running with your dog: https://www.runnersworld.com/runners-stories/a20850541/how-to-run-a-5k-with-your-dog.
The dog sport of agility consists of dogs navigating their way through a course full of obstacles and challenges like weave poles, tunnels, teeter boards, jumps, and more. It is also great exercise for owners who run through the course directing their dog through each portion of the course.
Agility can be hard on a dog’s joints so a thorough veterinary exam prior to starting is suggested. It is also recommended that owners find a dog training school that is extremely knowledgeable about the sport and promotes safety and the use of proper techniques. Great agility trainers will also be knowledgeable about canine physical therapy and conditioning, which is important to reduce the risk of injury.
Agility is open to dogs of all shapes and sizes regardless of breed. Mixed breeds are welcome to participate in all agility events. Agility is a great way to bond with your dog and meet other dog owners at agility events. The American Kennel Club website has information on how to get started at this link:http://www.akc.org/sports/agility.
Dog owners who live in parts of the country where it snows can participate in the sport of skijoring with their dog. Skijoring is a sport in which owners on cross country skis are pulled by their dogs. This is a great activity for well-trained winter loving dogs who are in great physical shape. In addition to your own skis, poles, and winter gear, you will need a special pulling harness for your dog, pulling leashes, and a belt to attach to your own waist, and of course some snow.
Check out this link with basic information for skijoring beginners : https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/the-best-winter-dog-sport-ever-skijoring.
Some dog owners also wear roller-blades instead of cross-country skis, but it is extremely important that your dog is well-trained in order to avoid injury to both of you.
Ladder workouts are common among athletes and involve going through a series of exercises, often with a lap of walking or running between them. A typical ladder workout might include a short run, followed by jumping jacks, more running, sit-ups, running lunges, running, etc. You can incorporate this into exercise with your dog by running or walking a set distance, and then performing the exercises while holding onto your dog’s leash or having a walking partner hold the leash while you do the exercises and then swap so that you hold the leash and they do the exercises. You can also exercise in your own yard while your dog is exploring or while you are playing fetch with your pup by doing each run of the ladder of exercises between rounds of fetch.