Man’s best friend – but what about man’s best workout partner?
We all know our dogs love exercise. They’re the first to line up at the door when they hear the ‘W’ word, but what about the ‘R’ word (RUN).
Working out together can be good for both you and your dog, so here are our 8 favorite ways of getting active with your dog.
1. Active Fetch
Active Fetch is a new trend that is so easy it’ll make you ask – why haven’t we been doing this for years? Your dog loves to play fetch and will happily rocket after a tennis ball, but what are you doing in between? Race your dog to the ball – the competition will make them work harder and it’ll test your sprinting powers too.
Short dashes are better for some breeds such as Pugs and Beagles, and it’ll also be fun for you both, and passers-by.
We probably all have a soccer ball at home and I’m sure your pooch likes to play with it. This is especially good if you also have children as you can exercise as a family. Playing soccer with your pet is another easy and fun way to get active. You’ll also be kept busy keeping up with the ball and making sure they don’t destroy it!
This is particularly suited to herding breeds, such as Border Collies, who are quick to react.
The beauty of hiking is that it can be low impact and good for endurance at the same time. It’s also great for your own personal relaxation by getting away from the city and into the wilderness – why not extend the trip into a camping holiday for the whole family?
A flat, shaded route is preferable for your four legged friend, which takes you beneath the tree canopy and onto soft terrain. They’ll also enjoy the opportunity to paddle in streams and encounter new sights and smells. However, the beauty of discovery can be a double-edged sword – keep an eye out for streams that swell into fast rivers, or ridges that turn into cliffs.
Hiking can be as physically demanding as you’d like it to be but it’s important to take refreshments for both of you regardless, especially when you’re far away from home. It’s also worth having regular pit-stops to check over your dog’s paws for cuts and scrapes. Ticks can be prevalent in thick grass or woods so again check yourself and your dog when you get home. You can read more about removing ticks here. Bear in mind hunting restrictions too. If there is any chance there could be hunters on your trail, equip your dog with a blaze orange vest and make sure they stay close to you.
Golden Retrievers and Labradors are particularly suited to hiking as they are usually calm, enjoy encountering other people and do well with obedience, meaning you can let them off to roam, although do check first as some trails require dogs to be on a leash at all times.
If you’re already a runner, taking your dog with you may seem like the most obvious option. The most important thing to remember is that whilst you have built up a training program your dog might be a beginner.
Think about your distance first. Running is a high impact, cardio intense exercise (for both of you). It may not be suitable for dogs with hip problems and arthritis. You can reduce the impact, however, by running on softer surfaces which will be better for their joints. If you are running in a busy area you will need to leash your dog – a loose leash is best as you don’t want to tangle with your partner. If running with something in your hand is distracting there are belts that you can purchase to secure you, however you should test these out first as it will affect your balance.
Muscly dogs of a medium build, such as Weimaraners, make great running partners as they are strong, yet not too heavy.
None of us want to recreate the moment Jeff Daniels plunged into a park lake in 101 Dalmatians with his dog, Pongo, attached to his handle bars. Cycling with your dog can be fun for both you and your dog but there are some important safety considerations to keep in mind.
Firstly a bike can be a scary object to your dog – it moves quickly and makes unusual noises. Get your dog used to being attached to your bike, first by walking, and never leave your dog attached to a bike on its own – if your dog spooks they could become a dangerous object.
Secondly, to avoid a comedy moment, do not attach your dog to your handle bars. We recommend that you purchase a bike-leash-baton which attaches your pooch securely to your bike, also keeping them at a safe distance. The other option is to hold the leash in your hand, but only if you are a confident cyclist. Ask yourself how comfortable you would be reacting to a sudden pull, like Pongo treated Daniels to. Regardless, the leash should be kept short so they cannot move in front of the bike and we recommend using a harness. Make sure to carry a spare leash too in case you need to separate from the bike and you should also consider purchasing reflective equipment for your dog, just as you should for yourself.
Finally make sure you keep an eye on them. With your dog running at your feet it could be easy to forget they are there. Don’t cut corners or try to make small gaps.
Cycling is usually a long distance activity, great for your quads and calves, but not great for dogs with short legs. Again dogs of a medium build that are well-built, yet not too heavy, like a Vizsla, are great at going long and steady. This doesn’t rule out cycling for smaller dogs however – why not purchase a trailer? Simply pop your dog inside when they’ve had enough and you can keep going. They’ll enjoy the rest but still get to experience the ride!
Rollerblading can be a great way to exercise, but you should be a skilled skater and have good control of your dog.
Pre-training is required as you’ll need them to stay by your side, respond to voice commands and be sure they aren’t going to make any sudden movements – if not you could be a hazard to bystanders.
As with cycling, wear your skates at home to introduce your dog to them. A harness leash of a medium length is recommended, but make sure not to loop the leash around your wrist in case you need to let go. Your dog will enjoy your new-found speed, but make sure you wear protective gear in case you fall. It’s also best to do this in a quiet area to reduce the risk of obstacles. Once you get home, check your pooch’s paws for cuts and scrapes. Rollerblading requires a hard, flat surface which isn’t always a good combination for dogs.
Sprinters such as Greyhounds and Whippets will enjoy this exercise in short bursts, but they’re not there to tow you – after all, you’re meant to be working out too!
7. Skiing and Snow Shoeing
Dogs love snow, especially if it doesn’t happen very often. It releases their inner puppy and makes for entertaining watching. Cross-country skiing and snow shoeing can be a really fun activity for both you and your dog, but pouncing through the snow can be physically demanding so make sure to follow these steps.
Firstly, does your dog follow voice commands? It’s best if your dog can be off the leash (although you should check restrictions first), but make sure they’ll come back to you. If you need a leash, use a harness and keep it short.
Think also about frozen waterways you might come across – your dog won’t have as much snow-sense as you and you should check their paws frequently for ice and snow clumps. You can purchase moisturizing wax for their feet to prevent cracks forming or even boots to keep them out of the snow.
You should also keep an eye out for signs of hyperthermia such as shivering, coordination loss and dilated pupils. Also, bring a mat along for your pooch when you take a break so that they don’t get wet and cold.
Your dog will need to have lots of stamina for this exercise. Snow shoes and skis make it easier for you to trek through the snow, but not your dog. The best dogs for snow activities are breeds with long legs and a dense coat. Short legs and long fur will collect ice and make them cold. Siberian Huskies, Akitas and Bernese Mountain Dogs are all good examples, but you can purchase coats for dogs less well equipped.
Skiijoring is another winter sport you can do with your dog, but is for more advanced pups. Attached to a cross-country skier, your dog is used to provide power, much like a one-man dog sled. This is best suited for athletic dogs who are accustomed to the cold.
8. Boot Camps
Lastly there are many camps and clubs available that combine obedience training and exercise for you both. Mental stimulation is just as tiring as physical training and boot camps can prevent you both from falling into bad habits. There are various boot camps across the country, which are fun and provide an opportunity to meet people. There are also lots of doggy-based events you can both sign up for – keep an eye out for your next one!
And this is just the tip of the iceberg! Knowing your dog is key and it’s important to consider how you’re going to keep them safe before you do any exercise. We’ve put together some hints and tips on working out with your dog to get you started.