According to fitness guru Dr. Adam Shafran, co-author of “You Can’t Lose Weight Alone,” “People enjoy exercise more when they do it with a friend.”
Yet, it is often hard for people to find a workout partner whose schedule and personality matches with theirs. There are also lots of fun activities to do solo but the best workout partner may be nearer than one realizes.
With a little creativity, a person’s best exercise partner may be the family dog.
10 Workout Ideas with Your Dog
Hiking is one of the great ways to exercise with your pet. Medical experts report that it is a great cardiovascular workout which can lower the risk of heart disease. Hiking is also beneficial for canine partners as well. A hike also gives a dog the opportunity to explore new terrain, new scents, and a chance to express his inborn drives.
“…Dogs migrate, and the walk allows them to fulfill that instinctual need,” explains dog expert Cesar Millan.
Preparation is the key to a successful dog hike. First, it is important to match the trail to the dog’s present capabilities. Second, the owner needs to feel comfortable that the dog will respond to his verbal commands since his canine friend will walk freely without a leash.
2. Dog Yoga
Dog yoga can provide many fun activities with your dog. There are two ways yoga may be practiced with your dog.
First, there are dog exercises with the owner, as the owner moves the dog through several poses. This improves the dog’s flexibility, range of motion, circulation, and aids relaxation. There are several different doga poses an owner can do with his/her dog. These include the Chaturanga, the Chair, and the Savasana.
The second way yoga may be practiced with a dog partner is passive, with the human practicing the yoga positions while the dog mills around. This encourages the dog’s bonding with its human partner and can be a socializing experience when practiced in a yoga class that welcomes dogs.
3. Play Doggie Soccer
Dogs naturally love to chase a ball around the backyard. With a little coaching from their human partner, dogs can be trained to score a soccer ball into a goal.
Experts recommend beginning simple, with the goal of teaching the dog to “nose” the ball. In a normal play session, bring out a ball and present it to the dog. Every positive movement or attention given to the ball should be reinforced with treats, praise, etc. Once the dog has learned to “nose” the ball, then the human “coach” can work on teaching it to “kick” the ball into a soccer goal.
To do this, train the dog to touch the ball’s lower half. Once the dog learns to do this, then take the ball in front of the goal. As the dog targets the ball and noses it into the goal, reinforce this behavior with treats. It won’t be long before the dog gladly plays doggie soccer with its owner.
Fourteen million people in the United States bike at least twice a week. Including a dog partner on these trips around the neighborhood is an easy way to enjoy exercise together.
A few basic steps are important for it to be a positive and safe experience.
Firstly, some equipment needs to be purchased. Here are some of the essentials: a non-tangling lead, a body harness, a reflective vest, a water bottle, and hiking-grade booties.
Secondly, it is recommended that a dog is trained by walking the bike with the dog attached to the lead. This will help the dog get acquainted with the experience before moving at a normal speed.
Third, be sure to take breaks during the ride. This will allow the dog to drink water, catch its breath, and enjoy the experience.
5. Disc Dog or Flying Disc
Another great way you can exercise with your dog is through disc dog competitions. The sport began in the 1970s through the appearance of Alex Stein and his dog Ashley Whippet on national television. Today, there are competitions held all over the world, where a human/dog team compete in the toss and fetch, freestyle, and long-distance events.
If this is the exercise that appeals to the human partner, then he/she needs to train the dog in the basics of fetch, catch, retrieve, and relinquish. This means that beginning obedience training is important to enjoy this exercise program.
After the dog has learned these basic behaviors, then the owner can introduce a disc, teaching the dog to take the disc from his/her hand. Then, the play can advance by tossing the disc a short distance, though not directly at the dog. Positively reinforce any attempts at a catch. The goal of the training is to let the dog feel rewarded by catching the disc.
Rollerblading is an excellent cardiovascular workout as its constant demand on the lower-body muscles put a continuous demand on the heart and lungs. The Harvard Medical School estimates that an hour of rollerblading will burn from 400 to 700 calories.
Rollerblading can also be a great activity to enjoy with a dog partner, but several factors need to be considered before lacing up the skates.
Firstly, the dog must have good obedience skills. Since both skater and dog may be traveling up to 30 miles an hour, a dog who suddenly bolts out of control can cause serious injury to both parties.
Secondly, it is important to select the right place to rollerblade with a canine companion. The best places are places free of vehicles and have few people around.
Third, it is vital that the human partner have adequate training since rollerblading requires the ability to avoid obstacles that can cause a tumble.
Finally, equip the dog with the right leash—one a little longer than normal. A chest harness is also important, as it is better to attach a leash to it than to a neck collar.
7. Dog Camps
Dog-friendly boot camps give owners and dogs the chance to enjoy off-leash activities in an outdoor setting with other owners and dogs. The activities of dog camp are similar to the summer camps owners may have attended in their youth.
The boating, hiking, and games will just have a canine emphasis. The dogs will have activities such as dock-diving, agility skills, and flyball. While the dogs will enjoy meeting new friends and learning new games, the owners can also attend classes focusing on animal communication, canine massage, and more.
8. Play Frisbee
If disc dog competitions are too intense, simply playing with a Frisbee can be an enjoyable activity a dog and its owner can share. Some basic points to consider before making this the favored exercise are as follows:
The Dog’s Health
Some dog breeds are better suited to the intense physical activity of Frisbee play. Other dogs may actually be hurt by the exercise, especially if the dog is prone to hip dysplasia. The family veterinarian can provide a check-up to make sure the dog can handle such play.
The Dog’s Training
Since this is an off-leash activity that is often enjoyed in parks around other dogs and people, it is vital that the dog has good training in basic obedience skills.
The Disc Type
Some discs are better suited to owner/dog play. Look for a disc that is flexible and soft, yet resistant to the dog’s teeth.
9. Agility/Box Jumps
Dog agility is a sport that has become very popular in recent years. A dog is coached through an obstacle course that may include tunnels, contact obstacles, and jumps. In competition, the dog is measured for time and accuracy. Even if an owner doesn’t want to engage in official competitions, the exercises for agility and box jumps can be a fun and healthy playtime for dog and owner in their own backyard.
A few basic jumps that can be enjoyed are the hurdle jump, the broad jump, and the tire jump. The box jump is an especially good exercise. The dog jumps onto a box-like structure. This is easy to construct at home from an old ice cooler, wooden crate, or old trunk. The jump provides good exercise for the dog’s leg muscles.
10. Mini Obstacle Course/Slalom Run
This is another type of exercise that is inspired by dog agility competitions. Owners can easily construct these in the backyard with inexpensive materials and provide their canine partner with interesting activities and a chance to bond. Two easier types of obstacles are as follows:
A slalom run course can be created by sticking 4-foot lengths of ½” PVC in the ground an equal distance apart. The owner can then train the dog to navigate the course by running in and out of the line of poles.
An easy obstacle course to construct is a tunnel. Several medium-sized boxes can be opened up on the top and bottom and then connected together to form a tunnel.
“To enjoy the glow of good health, you must exercise,” said famous boxer Gene Tunney. This is true for both man and man’s best friend, so your dog is the ideal exercise partner.
Author Bio: Olivia Harper is the co-founder of the blog Daily Dog Stuff. She is a reserved and passionate pet parent who loves to spend time with her Sibe who keeps her active and social.