Written by: Coach Kelley
Who doesn’t love a cold, wet nose greeting them first thing in the morning? I'm sure that's the thought lots of people had during quarantine, when they suddenly found themselves with some extra time on their hands. Many shelters reported an increase in both fosters and adopters, resulting in a whole lot of animals finding their forever homes. Now that your best friend has settled in, there’s a whole world waiting for both of you at the end of that leash.
Most of us have good intentions when it comes to exercise, but struggle with actually doing it. You're too tired, it’s too late, Netflix is calling your name. Don’t worry, your furry friend will have you off the couch and walking in no time! That’s right, your dog may be the ultimate workout partner! Dogs are always eager to spend more time with you, they have plenty of excess energy to burn, and you’re less likely to skip your workout when your furry friend is at the front door wagging their tail.
Why is exercise so important? Regular physical activity can improve your muscle strength and boost your endurance. Exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and helps your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. And when your heart and lung health improve, you have more energy to tackle daily chores. Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative moods while boosting self-esteem and cognitive function. It's also been found to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal. Both humans and pets will benefit from a regular workout, and it’s always more fun to train with a partner.
Here are few activities to try with your furry friend. Remember to consult your physician before starting any exercise program. It’s also super important to invest time in properly training your doggo in basic commands and leash manners. Doing this will set both you and your dog up for success. Now let’s get
Most dogs love running! My rescue dog, CC, is always up for the challenge and she loves exploring new places. I discover new trails and lots of squirrels whenever she joins me for a training run. You’ll need to train your pup to run with you so here are a few tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable run:
Walking or running with your dog on a leash is a great way to get you both moving. Start with a realistic distance so you can work on both you and your dog’s endurance. Remember to consider your dog’s health, build, and breed. Not all dogs are going to be able to run long distances, so if you have an older dog or flat faced breed, consider brisk walks instead. The important thing is to start moving and build from there. Both dogs and their humans need to build their strength and stamina before hitting the longer trials. So why not do it together?
Running on dirt trails will be easier on both you and your pups joints. So even if you live in a city, try to make the extra effort to go to some of the larger parks that have separate running trails. CC loves going to Inwood Park and it’s easy to forget we’re still in NYC while enjoying all the beautiful sights, smells, and sounds.
Most dogs love hiking! It’s a great way to take in all kinds of new smells and explore places they may not have been before. CC has her very own doggie backpack and does a full body wiggle every time I take it out. I love seeing the trail through her eyes! Who knew there were so many squirrels?
As with running, you'll want to consider your pets age, size, and breed so you can pick the appropriate trails. Once you’ve found a dog friendly route, it’s time to hit the great outdoors! It’s an absolute must to train your dog properly before going on any sort of hike to ensure the safety of you and your fellow hikers. It's imperative that your dog follows basic commands and has an excellent recall.
Shady trails with soft, leaf, or needle covered terrain are the easiest on your dog’s paws. Never overestimate your dog’s capabilities and try to avoid steep, jagged, icy, or slippery ground. CC and I prefer to stick to well-traveled trails and she always stay on leash - the squirrels really appreciate that!
If your dog loves playing fetch, grab that tennis ball, find a fenced in area or dog park, and start throwing. Frisbee is also an excellent activity to get both you and your pup moving. CC loves catching the frisbee and the farther I throw it, the more she runs. I also love to use her tug toy as resistance when I do upright rows. She always wins. Remember park playtime isn’t just for the dog, so don’t forget to run too when you’re tossing that ball.
CC also just enjoys keeping me company when I exercise. If I roll out the yoga mat, she’s sure to be in a down dog before I can say Namaste. Seeing her do her little doggie stretches makes me smile and helps me in my practice. Yoga can be a challenge for my anxious brain, so having CC by my side provides a calming effect.
Weighing in at 30 lbs., she also provides just the right amount of resistance for exercises, such as dips. This past summer most gyms were closed, so we often brought our jump rope and bands to the park for some socially distant training. I discovered that CC loved to sit on the bench and watch me exercise and wondered how I could make her feel more included. With just a little bit of coaxing, the next thing I knew CC was sitting on my lap while I did dips. Turns out she has excellent balance so we’re going to try partner push-ups next. She also does some mean doggie box jumps.
The trick to exercising with your dog it to find something you both enjoy and just do it. No matter what the activity is, your dog will simply be happy to be with you!