Exercising with Your Dog

You come home from a long day at work, ready to put your feet up and relax for a while. When you open the door to find your furry friend waiting, hoping that it’s time for a walk or a game of fetch, what do you do? Do you ignore the wagging tail, those big eyes, and that look of excitement? Of course not! You decide that relaxing can wait, and you head out with Fido for a little activity.

You know that exercise is good for you. It helps you maintain a healthy weight, manage stress, sleep better, and increase your energy level. The great thing is that activity does the same for your pets! Not only will exercise help them live longer, but an exercising animal is also more alert and more content. Some people believe that their pets misbehave to get even for being left alone; but in reality, the cause is usually boredom from lack of exercise. Many other behavior problems like chewing, digging, and barking go away once the animal starts getting regular activity.

Some recent studies have shown a link between pet ownership and better health. A dog, for example, becomes a stimulus for exercise. Therefore, pet owners tend to have better cardiovascular fitness levels than people without pets. One study, for example, showed that dog owners walk an average of 300 minutes per week--that's nearly double the 168 minutes of walking that people without dogs usually do. In addition, pets have been shown to reduce anxiety, be a source of physical contact and comfort, and decrease feelings of loneliness and depression.

Exercising with your dog is a great time saver! Whether you like to run, walk, or play in the backyard with your pet, you can get your own workout at the same time. Although walking is probably the most common activity, there are other opportunities for exercise that you may not have thought of—hiking, backpacking, jogging, swimming, and rollerblading (be careful!) can all be done with pets in tow. Many sporting goods stores now carry items such as canine backpacks, hands-free leashes (to make jogging easier), and life vests to protect pets in the water.

Just as it would be hard for you to go out and jog for 45 minutes if you haven’t worked out in 6 months, it’s also hard for your pet. Be sure to get your veterinarian’s okay before beginning your pet’s exercise routine. After you get the go-ahead, here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Start slowly, gradually increasing the time and intensity of the activity. This will safely strengthen your pet’s muscles, aerobic capacity, and footpads.
     
  • Pay attention to how your pet is feeling. Signs that your pet needs to slow down or stop include drooling, stumbling, trouble breathing, and a long, droopy tongue. Take a break and consider making tomorrow's workout shorter. Also remember that in hot weather your pet can't sweat like you do to keep cool.
     
  • Concrete and asphalt are tough on your friends’ paws—especially on hot days. Try to walk or run on dirt paths (or grass) as much as possible.
     
  • The longer you work out, the more water Fido needs. Bring along a collapsible water dish to help your pet stay hydrated.
     
  • Be realistic about your pet’s limitations. Many smaller breeds love going for a brisk walk, but you’ll probably have to carry them on a strenuous hike. Animals with a thin coat will not tolerate cold weather very well, whereas dogs with thick coats don’t do well in the summer heat.
     
  • You should avoid strenuous exercise with your pet until they are finished growing (after 9-12 months for most dogs).

Working out with a buddy can be motivating and make exercise more enjoyable. So think about making a buddy out of your four-legged friend!

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Member Comments

thank you Report
I don't like dogs, but I'll walk with a neighbor and her dog. Report
I just got a dog and it is a lot of work, but worth it. Report
Best exercise partner ever! Report
Great article Report
MUDDYFOOTS
I'm much more consistent about exercise when I take my dog along. And he behaves better at home afterward. Report
ROSSYFLOSSY
My dogs love to exercise with me! Report
My pup looks forward to our walks but right now they're on the shorter side as he's only 6 months but growing very quickly and he's a great walker. Now if only he was as well behaved at home :( Report
THANKS Report
Best companions ever! Report
Really miss my little furry walking companion. Eventually will get another one. Report
ROSSYFLOSSY
Love spending time with my dogs. Report
thanks Report
Good article. Report

About The Author

Jen Mueller
Jen Mueller
Jen received her master's degree in health promotion and education from the University of Cincinnati. A mom and avid runner, she is an ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach and medical exercise specialist, with additional certifications in behavior change, functional training and senior fitness. She is also a RRCA-certified running coach. See all of Jen's articles.