Sweat It Out: Exercise with Your Dog
Exercise is necessary to lead a healthy life—for both you and your dog. We all know we should exercise regularly, just like we should walk and exercise our dogs regularly, but it gets difficult to cram a solid exercise session into an already-hectic day. And admit it: how many times have you forgone a full dog walk and just took your pooch up the block and back instead? But exercise is paramount for you and your pet. According to veterinarypartner.com, regularly exercising your dog improves heart and lung function along with bone and joint health. Luckily, there are a number of easy and fun exercises you can do with your dog. Plus, each of them is a great way to multi-task: you and your dog will be getting a healthy dose of exercise at the same time.
One of the best exercises out there—and probably a favorite of your dog’s—is walking. Depending on whether your dog is a puppy or elderly, if he’s high-energy or more laid back, you can adjust the intensity of the walk. For instance, a leisurely walk would be sufficient for an old dog, while a brisker power walk would be more suitable for a younger, more energetic dog. You can tailor the workout to your needs too. For example, if you want to get in a solid work out, walk your dog in a hilly neighborhood or go for a hike at a park will lots of open area and hills. Walking briskly uphill will burn calories and increase your heart rate, and will also be an effective exercise for your dog. If you live in a flat area, you can always just speed walk your usual dog walk route.
Make sure to maintain a steady pace and pay attention to your breathing as you walk. If you’re not breathing hard, you are probably not getting a good work out. Keep a fast enough pace that you feel yourself working to breathe and that you are sweating. Also, keep an eye on your pet to make sure he is keeping up with you at a steady pace. If it seems like you or your dog is struggling, take a break and walk at a normal pace for a few minutes, then return to a speedier walk.
If you prefer jogging, take your dog along for the run. Just make sure that your dog is healthy enough to run for a distance. It’s a very effective exercise for high-energy dogs that tend to yank the leash while you take them for a regular walk. Ease into jogging by starting out with a brisk walk for five minutes. That way you and your dog are warmed up to run. It will also give your dog enough time to relieve himself before you move into a full-on run. Once you start jogging, maintain a steady pace and pay attention to how your dog is reacting. If it seems like he is struggling or excessively panting, switch to walking, then speed up once he has recovered. Dogs will often want to keep up with their owners and won’t slow down even if they need a break, so it’s vital for you to pay attention to how your pet responds to this workout.
You can also do intervals of jogging with walking, and gradually work up to the point where you are jogging during your entire work out. For example, start off with a five-minute walk, then jog for five minutes, then walk for two minutes. Repeat the five-minute jog and two-minute walk three times, then cool down with another five-minute walk. You can adjust the length of time you jog and walk, depending on the fitness level of you and your dog. It’s important to remember to pace yourself and your dog. Don’t force yourself to jog for 30 minutes straight with no breaks if it’s been several months since you have gone for a run. Start by doing jogging/walking intervals to give yourself and your pet enough time to build endurance.
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When it’s hot outside, cool off while exercising by going for a swim with your dog. It’s the ideal way to work out on a sweltering summer day, especially if you have a pool or can drive to a nearby swimming lake or pond. Plus, your dog will be able to be active without the risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, which can happen if he is out on a hot, humid day and has no way to cool down. Swimming is also great for both you and your dog because being in the water reduces the stress on joints that working out on land can cause.
There are all sorts of water exercises you can do. You can swim laps in the pool as your dog swims after you. If you’re at the lake or pond, have a water race with your dog: start on the shore and sprint into the water, swim into the lake for 30 seconds, swim back to shore, then run back on shore. Repeat this three to five times. Your dog will gladly follow you back and forth as many times as you can manage to race. Just remember to pay attention to how your dog is breathing and swimming. If he seems very tired, take a break in shallow water, or sit on the shore or ledge of the pool for a few minutes until he catches his breath. For added safety, you can even have your dog wear a life vest to help him stay afloat in deeper water.
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You can easily liven up a game of fetch so that it becomes a decent workout for you and your pooch. The good thing about fetch is that almost every dog likes to play it, and it’s fun and easy. You can play it at home in your yard, at a park or any open field.
Take your dog’s favorite ball or toy and start to run while holding it for 30 seconds. Your dog will follow you. Once he gets to you, run back and forth in short spurts, like you’re playing keep-away with the ball or toy. Then throw it so your dog can run and fetch it. When he brings it back to you, run away with it again for 30 seconds, and repeat the running/keep-away/throwing. Also be sure to bring a container of water and a dish in case your pooch gets thirsty. Pay attention to when he’s tired so he can take a break and re-hydrate.
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It takes some effort to exercise yourself and your dog, but it’s important for the health of you and your pet. You don’t have to work out hard core every day of the week, but you can commit to at least three to four days each week when you and your pup break a serious sweat. The other days of the week can be less intense dog walks twice a day. If you are unsure about the kind of exercise your dog should be doing, talk to your veterinarian. And no matter which workout you choose, be sure to pay attention to how your dog is handling the exercise. Take frequent breaks if you or your dog need it. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are a risk for both of you, so be sure to monitor how both of you feel as you exercise. If you make the effort to exercise, both you and your pooch will be on your way to a healthier lifestyle in no time.