Here's How To Exercise With Your Dog Safely
The perfect workout partner 💪
Working out is so much better when you have a buddy to motivate you. And what better partner is there than your dog?
Dogs actually make great workout buddies, and there are tons of ways you can exercise with your dog by your side so you can both stay fit and healthy.
The Dodo spoke to some experts to find out why exercising with your pup is a great idea and some tips on how to get started.
Benefits of exercising with your dog
Exercising with your dog might motivate you to actually work out, which is a huge bonus. And since your dog is relying on you for his daily workout, you’ll be able to get into a consistent routine.
Just like you need to work out to stay healthy, dogs need exercise to stay physically and mentally fit, too.
“Exercise increases muscle mass, helps dogs stay trim, builds healthy joints, and improves heart and lung function,” Dr. Jamie Whittenburg, a veterinarian at Senior Tail Waggers, told The Dodo. “Exercise is also vital as mental stimulation to keep dogs happy and to avoid boredom.”
Bored dogs will often find ways to get into trouble, like chewing up things they shouldn’t be chewing on, so exercising your pup will help avoid that.
Plus, you’ll get your workout in at the same time as your pup’s, so you’ll save time.
Workouts to do with your dog
There are lots of things you can do with your dog so you both can get more exercise, including:
- Yoga (“doga”)
- Agility training
- Skijoring (letting your dog pull you on skis)
Tips for exercising with your dog
Here’s what you need to know to start working out with your dog.
Talk to your vet
Talk to your vet before starting a new workout with your pup, especially if he has any medical conditions that could make exercising more difficult for him, like arthritis.
Pick the right workout
Choose a workout routine that suits your dog’s level of fitness. For example, a bulldog won’t be a good running buddy because of his short legs and smushed face. But a more high-energy dog will probably love running with you.
Senior pups or dogs with health conditions may need more low-key workout routines, so you should take that into consideration when picking out exercises to do, too.
If you have a less active dog, some exercises you can do with him include going on walks, playing fetch, climbing stairs with him, obedience training, taking him to a dog park and letting him play with friends’ dogs.
Avoid hot weather
If you’re going to be exercising outside, only do it in mild weather, since dogs can easily get overheated in temperatures around 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re working out in the summer, bring lots of water, keep your sessions short and look out for signs that your pup is getting too hot.
Remember to take breaks while exercising with your dog, especially if you’re working out in warmer weather. Take regular breaks and give your pup water to let him rest and cool off. You should also know the signs that your dog’s too tired to keep going, like excessive panting, stopping a lot or lagging behind.
How can I start running with my dog?
Running with your dog can be a fun way for both of you to get some exercise. But it’s important to ease into it to prevent your dog from getting injured.
Start training your dog to run with you inside and with short training sessions — only around three to five minutes to start, Julie Burgess, a certified dog trainer for Senior Tail Waggers, told The Dodo.
According to Burgess, “Ensure you can walk with your dog quickly first. Jog a few steps, drop a treat, praise. Repeat until your dog understands that your movement equals treats.”
Begin slowly increasing the distance and the amount of time that you and your dog run while watching how your dog handles it so you don’t push him too far. “Assess your dog's ability to run as far as you can and make adjustments,” Burgess said.
How much exercise does my dog need?
Most dogs need around 30 minutes to an hour of exercise every day, but this will vary depending on your dog’s age, size, breed and health status.
Puppies don’t need as much exercise as adult dogs because their bones and muscles are still developing. Giving your puppy too much exercise before his growth plates are completely closed can damage them, which can lead to lasting joint problems. His soft bones can also break more easily than an adult dog’s fully formed bones.
“Depending on the type of puppy you own, exercise can be as little as five minutes twice per day, but a higher energy puppy may need closer to 15 minutes,” Dr. Katie Pagan, a partner veterinarian of Heart + Paw Fells Point, told The Dodo.
A good rule of thumb is five minutes twice per day for each month of age. So a 3-month-old puppy would need around 15 minutes of exercise two times a day.
As your pup gets older, exercising can become more difficult, but it’s still super important to keep him healthy. According to Dr. Pagan, try taking your senior dog out for multiple short exercise sessions that won’t tire him out or hurt his joints.
Certain high-energy breeds need a lot of exercise to get out all their energy. “[The amount of exercise is] very dependent on the breed of dog,” Dr. Pagan said. “High-energy or working dogs will need much more exercise than a Maltese.”
These breeds usually need around 60 to 90 minutes of exercise each day, but keep in mind that each individual dog’s different, so your pup might need a different amount of exercise depending on his personality.
And brachycephalic breeds, or dogs with smushed faces, like pugs and bulldogs, can’t go on really long walks or stay outside in hot weather because they’ll get overheated or have trouble breathing.
Smaller dogs need a moderate amount of exercise, around 20 to 30 minutes a day. “Smaller dogs tend to do better with short sessions, once to twice a day,” Dr. Pagan said. But small breeds are actually prone to obesity, so just because they need less exercise doesn’t mean you should forget about exercising them altogether.
Giant breeds have similar exercise needs — around 30 to 45 minutes per day. They tend to be less active than medium-sized dogs because they have much larger bodies to move around.
If your dog’s overweight, he’ll need to exercise more than usual to help him lose weight. Your vet can help you come up with a diet and exercise plan that’ll work for your dog.
Other health issues, like arthritis, can affect your pup’s ability to exercise because painful joints make it hard for dogs to walk and run.
If you think your pup has a health problem that’s affecting his ability to exercise, take him to the vet to get checked out. Your vet can let you know how to safely help your dog get the exercise he needs without injuring him.
If you’re looking for a new exercise buddy to motivate you to work out, your dog might be the perfect partner. Just find a workout that’s right for your pup’s fitness level, and you and your pup will be having fun and staying healthy in no time.
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