6 Workouts You Can Do With Your Dog, from Pet Experts
Think of it as the most adorable way to get into beast mode: These pup-partnered exercises from a dog-training expert take exercise with your dog beyond your beloved walk.
When it comes to getting physical, there’s no better cheerleader than your dog. If your favorite part of the day is a walk in the neighborhood with furry bestie, you already know pets are great for getting you moving (and helping you decompress).
It’s possible your dog could be a motivating exercise partner for more than walks, if you know a few keys. As a pet expert and trainer for the Puppy Bowl, one of the most important considerations I stress is this: Before you begin working out with your dog, it’s important to consider their age, breed, body type, and current fitness level. Obviously a senior doggo won’t enjoy a jog or long walk, and flat-faced breeds like pugs shouldn’t join you for distance running. Meanwhile, front-heavy pups, like Basset hounds, should avoid laps in the pool…really not safe for those sweeties.
Team fitness can be a ton of fun, so schedule a check-up with your veterinarian to make sure your pup is physically sound before lacing up your sneakers and clipping on the leash for the following workouts. Be sure to monitor your dog during the activity to ensure it’s well tolerated, and check for possible strains or tenderness after you’re finished. With practice, you and your dog will soon be #fitnessgoals!
1. Dog yoga
The many benefits of yoga, like building strength, improving flexibility and supporting joint health, can apply to both ends of the leash. Dog trainer and certified Canine Fitness & Nutrition Specialist Stephanie Roberts, CPDT-KA, suggests a simple yoga flow can serve as a wonderful warm-up that prepares a dog for exercise by engaging them in three-second stretching poses.
Using a food lure, encourage your pup to look upward, then down toward their chest, toward each shoulder, toward the end of the rib cage on both sides, then toward both hips, and finally toward both hocks. Roberts says these long stretches gently get your pup’s body moving, increasing blood flow and preparing them for physical activity, as well as promoting body awareness and lowering the risk of injury.
Not every dog is cut out for sustained running, but most can turn on the power boosters for games of chase in the yard. This mini-workout involves brief sprints kicked off by a clear invitation to play, so your dog understands that it’s all in good fun.
To start, give your dog a big grin (they understand our facial cues!), bend over, and make claw-shaped “monster hands.” Your dog will probably drop into a play bow position of chest down and bottom up, then take off running. Then do your best to try to keep up with your canine athlete. Don’t forget to take water breaks for you both, especially when it’s hot out—this workout can get intense!
What’s better than getting in a workout while taking in the beauty of nature? Your pup will love the chance to hit the trails with you because you’re also giving that sniffer a workout as well!
It’s easy to forget that our dogs need mental workouts in addition to physical, and novel trails with a variety of new sights and smells will do the trick. Start off easy on flat forest trails, then as you both shape up, add some tougher hills to your route.
Trainer Stephanie Roberts also suggests dog parkour, also known as “urban agility,” as a great relationship-building workout. Much like human parkour (which is a little like American Ninja Warrior, using stunt-like physical agility in creative ways to move between two points), doggy parkour is all about using obstacles in the environment in a “do is I do” training methodology (keeping the stunts safe and simple, of course).
So, instead of walking past that park bench, jump up on it and use a treat lure to encourage your dog to join you. Turn a low retaining wall into a balance beam with your pup right behind you. Get creative with your dog to hop and scramble your way to fitness!
Want a low-impact workout you can enjoy with your pup? Try a paw-cooling dip in the water! Help your pooch to get used to the water before heading all the way in, and resist any urge to toss your dog in the deep end of the pool or lake. (Also, life jackets on you both will still ensure a great workout—check out the best dog life jackets.)
Start off with your dog on a long leash in the shallow water and encourage playful exploration. As your pup seems more confident, slowly move just deeply enough for you to swim, and go for a side-by-side dog paddle! (Safety note: Avoid swimming in still bodies of water where dangerous algae can grow, as it can be toxic for dogs..not to mention for you.)
Going for a jog with your dog is a great choice for humans that need a little canine encouragement. The key to a successful jogging workout is ensuring that your dog is ready for the exertion that comes with a sustained run, which means your dog should be at least a year old, a breed that has the body type to handle the workout (bulldogs need not apply), is appropriate on-leash, and has had the opportunity to build up endurance prior to sustained workouts.
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