One of the many benefits of pet ownership is the need to get out and exercise. For many owners, this motivation is what gets them started with their personal health and fitness goals. It’s one of the contributing reasons to the studies showing that dog owners are generally healthier than non-owners.
Unfortunately, dogs don’t operate the same way people do when it comes to exercise. You’ll need to be strategic and safe when exercising with your canine companion. Here are ten tips to help you enjoy exercising with your dog.
Know Your Breed’s Needs
Each dog breed is different when it comes to exercise requirements. Some breeds also have safety concerns that limit them from engaging in certain forms of exercise. Humans are always told to discuss exercise plans with a doctor before they get started. The same theory applies to pets.
Before you start exercising with your dog, talk to the vet about your pet’s health history, and breed needs. For example, if you have a dalmatian, husky, or another high-energy dog, your options will likely be more open. On the other hand, dogs like pugs have short legs and limited respiratory systems. Engaging in high-intensity exercise can be harmful to dogs like that.
The personal health history also plays an important role, beyond what you read about your breed online. If your dog has hip problems, the impact of running on hard surfaces could be detrimental. Talk to your vet and move wisely.
Get the Right Gear
Having the right gear will make your exercise experience more enjoyable. One of the main pieces of equipment to invest in will be the leash you use for exercise. It’s worth getting a harness style leash that won’t tug on your dog’s neck or cause respiratory distress if they pull while running. You might find a hands-free leash more comfortable while exercising as well. Finally, if you’re planning on heading out in the evenings, getting a reflective leash from Pet Life is advisable.
There’s other gear that you’ll need when venturing out with your dog. A portable water bottle with a collapsable dish or dog-friendly cap is a must. An easy to carry waste bag system is also advised when hitting the trails. For cycling, you can get a dog-friendly basket that keeps your small breed safe while you enjoy the fresh air.
Choose the Right Route
To get the most out of your exercise experience, choose your destination wisely. Look for dog-friendly parks and safe areas that suit your dog’s personality. If your dog doesn’t like other animals, the off-leash dog park probably isn’t a great place to go. Conversely, if your pooch is easily distracted by cars and people, heading away from the sidewalk is a must.
Choose the Right Time of Day
Try to schedule your exercise at a time that makes sense for your dog’s schedule. If your pet is usually pretty wound up in the evenings, going right after you get home from work can help settle your pet for the evening. If your pet gets hangry, avoid taking him out close to dinner time.
The time of day will also impact the temperature you experience while running. This consideration is especially important during winter and summer. Avoid intense exercise during peak hours of a summer day, and keep the early darkness in mind when venturing out in the winter.
Create a Routine
The more you stick to a schedule, the better you and your dog will do with being consistent. Once you choose the right time of day to get out and get moving, create a routine. Set out the things you need, get hydrated, and get moving. Your dog will recognize the schedule as time goes on and reward you with excitement and enthusiasm that will motivate you as well!
Read the Body Language
Keep an eye on your dog’s body language while exercising. While a bit of panting is standard during bouts of exercise, excessive panting is not. If your dog seems agitated or wobbly, stop exercising immediately. When you notice your dog slowing down, take this cue to mean that they need to rest.
Sometimes your dog’s enthusiasm will push them to keep exercising when they shouldn’t. Your pet relies on you to make smart decisions.
Take Lots of Breaks
If you’re training for a marathon and want to run non-stop for 20 miles, leave your dog at home or schedule plenty of breaks. For some dogs, even just having walking intervals mixed into a run is plenty. Smaller or older dogs will likely need more breaks than pets in their prime.
Like a human, your dog will build endurance over time. Like you, they may not be able to run non-stop today. With practice and patience, however, you’ll both get better. Scale up your exercises accordingly.
Follow the Rules
No matter where you go to exercise, or what type of exercise you do, follow the rules. Don’t let your dog off-leash in an area where leashes are required. Clean up after your pet and be the excellent person your dog thinks you are. Note that cycling on the road with a dog on a leash is illegal in most areas.
Get the Family Involved
Exercising with your dog doesn’t have to be a formal or structured event. Rather than jogging, you can play a game of catch with your family. Get the entire family outside to enjoy the fresh air and get their blood pumping. Set up a dog-friendly obstacle course in your yard, toss a ball around, splash in the water at the beach— the options are endless.
No matter what you do, have fun while doing it. Exercising with your dog is a great way to improve your health and wellness while bonding with your animal. If this experience starts causing you stress, change it up.
There’s no better time than today to start a new exercise routine with your pet. Be smart, get the right gear, and get moving.