Exercising with Dogs: Dos and Don'ts

Featured Article, Fitness, Pet Health
on June 27, 2014
exercising with dogs

Turns out your best workout buddy might have four legs instead of two. Dedicated to routine, canines won’t let you skip your morning workout as long as they are included. As a result, you’ll both get fitter: Michigan State University study reported that dog owners are 34% more likely to get the recommended 150 minutes of exercise a week than those without dogs. Dogs love physical activity, eagerly keep pace, and never cancel on you last minute. Don’t worry about setting your alarm clock because your furry friend is sure to wake you up for your morning run with a big, sloppy kiss.

When it comes to exercise with your furry friend, safety matters. Is your running pace too fast? When is it too hot for your dog to exercise? How can you tell if your pup has reached its stopping point? Find out the answers to these and other questions in our guide below:

Don’t run too soon.

The best running dogs are lean and have deep chests (think labs, boxers and setters). Most dogs can run with you, but wait until the body is fully developed so you do not accidentally injure your canine. You will know your dog is ready to run when a 30 to 60 minute walk is a breeze. A fit dog can run three miles without difficulty. If you are a speed demon who regularly runs at a 7:00 minute mile pace, it’s probably best to just run the cool-down portion with your dog—that sort of fast tempo might over-exert your pooch to the point of exhaustion. After about 6 weeks of exercise, you and your pet are ready for hour-long cardio sessions to get the two of you in lean shape.

Do try swimming.

Unlike the Irish Water Spaniel, not every dog has an inbred inclination for swimming. The first time you try to get your pup to doggie paddle, keep close watch on the ease with which he or she can swim. If it is too difficult, then your dog may not be equipped to swim regularly. Some dogs may just need a flotation device to keep his or her head above the water. Swimming is a great exercise for dogs with joint problems.

Don’t forget to prepare socially.

Always keep in mind that exercising at parks involves coming across other canines. Know how your dog tends to react around other dogs and have a plan of attack for how you will keep control. You will also need to consider how you and your dog will react to other dogs that may be ill-behaved.

Do make creative routines.

Dogs excel at obstacle courses. Use hurdles, tunnels, stairs or ropes to let your dog use all different muscles and improve agility. Try to keep up with your pet and increase your own fitness—this type of circuit-workout with plenty of plyometrics and dynamic movements is great for all-over conditioning.

Don’t tighten the leash.

You need some tension on your dog’s collar, but you also need some wiggle room for your pup to move comfortably. Tightening the leash too far could pull or drag your dog.

Do teach the command, “heel.”

Teach your dog how to heel so you can maintain control in public places. This will prevent your canine from running off to other animals and pulling you over. If you use “heel” every time you begin a workout and make eye contact, your dog will soon associate the term with exercise.

Don’t ignore your dog’s health.

Happy dogs are alert. If you notice your dog sulking, that’s your cue that it is probably time to stop. Prevent overheating by exercising in the mornings or evenings. Dogs release heat differently than humans, so keep in mind they cannot always handle the same conditions as you. Stick to soft surfaces and always check your pet’s paws for scratches. Take your canine to the vet for proper vaccinations before you exercise regularly outdoors. Bring a collapsible water dish to keep your dog hydrated if you will be outside for a long time, and treat your hard0working companion with frozen bananas and blueberries for a tasty post-workout treat.   

Don’t forget to unwind.

Finish your exercise on the mat. Whether you try doga (doggie yoga) or not, there are simple ways to make sure your pup receives the proper post-workout. Doga is a Hatha practice that involves massaging, stretching and relaxation. If you decide to pass on doga, you can hold a toy in the air and allow your dog to rise on the hind legs, stretching the abdominal area, back muscles and hind legs. When your dog is ready to play, he or she stretches the front legs, crouches the back legs and raises the rear. This is where we get “downward dog” in yoga. Praise your pup anytime you see this position to promote this kind of stretching. Always give your pet a head-to-tail rub down to relax the muscles too!

Do know your dog.

Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, which means they are not all built for the same types of physical activity. Retriever and sport breeds such as Labradors and spaniels love to play fetch. Terriers love tug-of-war, but must learn to drop toys on command so they do not become aggressive. Herding dogs like corgis, collies and sheepdogs will enjoy playing sports like soccer.

Rethink how you exercise and don’t leave your beloved pet at home. Fitness with your dog is not only beneficial to the health and physique of your pup, but will improve your dedication to exercise and help you stick to your workout goals.