How to keep fit with your dog; 6 fun activities to try
Maintaining the motivation to exercise regularly can be hard, but dog owners have the best motivator they could wish to find.
Dogs don’t take no for an answer. They love exercise and, unlike your friends, they’re not going to agree when you suggest staying in and watching TV.
Obesity is an increasing problem for both humans and dogs. It’s recommended that adults should aim to exercise for 150 minutes (2.5 hours) a week, while your dog should have at least 30 minutes exercise a day.
Exercising with your dog can improve your bond, and prevent unwanted behaviour in your dog that can be caused by them not getting enough exercise.
Here are six fun things you and your dog can do to keep you both fit.
The easiest thing you and your dog can do to exercise together is to go for a walk. Whether you create different routes around the streets where you live, visit a park, field, or a forest, you and your dog will enjoy walking together.
Walking is a good activity to start with if you don’t exercise regularly and want to work up to something like running with your dog. It will also allow you to teach your dog to behave correctly on the lead before you move onto something more vigorous, where pulling could lead to injuries.
If you want to make things harder for yourself, consider walking with a weighted backpack or a weight vest.
You probably do this with your dog every day and don’t even consider that it’s exercise.
Chasing your furry friend around the garden or the park, or throwing a ball or a Frisbee is a fun way to get both of your heartbeats racing.
Running with your dog / Canicross
Running is as much a mental sport as a physical sport, and your dog will keep you going.
If you want to try cross-country running with your dog you’ll be glad to hear there’s an entire sport devoted to it, called canicross or CaniX. This sees owners running with a waist belt, which the dog is attached to by a harness and a bungee cord / elastic line to reduces the shock when the dog pulls. Events are held regularly in the UK, and you can visit Cani-Cross to get a list of events.
Whether you’re running on the pavement, or fancy canicross, make sure you both start off slowly and gradually build up the length of time you’re running for. This is especially important for your dog as you may not know if he or she has an injury.
A slow start will also help your dog get used to running with you.
Bear in mind that running for extended periods of time is not suitable for all breeds, especially smaller dogs or dogs with short snouts. If you have a small dog, or one with a short snout, and are considering running with them make sure you speak to your vet who will be able to advise you.
Cycling while your dog runs alongside / bikejoring
If you don’t like running, you could try cycling while your dog runs alongside you.
You may have seen people cycling with their dog’s lead in their hands, or attached to the handlebars of their bike, but this is unsafe and can lead to injuries for both of you. There are plenty of attachment devices available which attach to the frame of your bike to make it safe for you and your dog, and reduce your dog’s pulling.
If you like the idea of cycling with your dog, consider bikejoring. This is a mushing sport, done off-road, where your dog/s run in front of you while you cycle. As with cycling, attachments for bikejoring are available.
Again, make sure you start slowly to allow your dog to get used to running alongside you, or in front of you, and whichever device you choose to use.
Is there anything more enjoyable than heading off with a map, and your dog for company? Just as you love exploring new places, your dog loves seeing and sniffing new places too.
If you want to make a weekend of it, or go away for a few days, you won’t have to look hard to find a dog friendly campsite. Bear in mind that you should also check that your route is dog friendly, and where necessary keep your dog on his or her lead.
Dog backpacks are available, which means that they can carry some of the things they need such as food, water, and a canine first aid kit. Don’t overload your dog, and make sure you get your dog used to wearing a backpack before you head out.
REI have got some great advice and tips about going hiking with your dog and the things you might need to take with you.
You don’t have to be thinking about taking your dog to Crufts or shows to enjoy agility training.
Agility sees a handler guide and direct their dog through obstacles. Your dog gets to do things like run through tunnels, running up a-frames, and weave through poles, while you run alongside and guide them. This sport can also help to improve the bond between you and your dog.
If you’re thinking about trying agility, visit AgilityNet to find a class near you.
Here are some more unusual sports humans and dogs can do together
- Skijoring – this is a combination of cross-country skiing and mushing
- Doga – that’s right, yoga for dogs
- Heelwork to music – dancing with your dog
- Schutzhund – a mixture of tracking, obedience and protection work
Remember that before you start any of the more vigorous exercises, such as cycling with your dog or running, you should consult your vet to make sure your dog is fit. The age of your dog is also important, as regular heavy exercise can be harmful for younger dogs.
You should also ensure that both you and your dog have access to water to prevent dehydration, this is especially important in warmer weather.
If you don’t exercise regularly, it’s also recommended that you have a check-up with your GP first.
What do you and your dog do to keep fit?