If there is one thing I have learned as a health and fitness professional, it is that we could use more daily exercise. Our furry family members are no different as they need to stay active as well. Inactivity and poor eating habits can lead to a host of health problems. The good news is that increasing activity levels will help decrease the risk of suffering those negative health conditions. We (dogs and humans) are both at risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, etc. This article focuses on several ways you can workout with dogs to enjoy a longer, healthier relationship together.
As a certified personal trainer, I understand that many people need more motivation to exercise, and make better food choices. Without consistent motivation, and positive feedback, many people will quit an effective exercise program. However, dogs are not like us in that regard. Most dogs do not need to be convinced to exercise. Many dogs choose to play, chase, run, fetch, and swim for fun. That being said, they may be more likely to engage in an activity you want to do with them. We should take this opportunity to exercise together, and be the best we can be.
Daily Requirements for Activity
I often prefer to use the word, “activity” in place of exercise. Many people view exercise as a monotonous task which takes up too much time during a 24 hour period. On the other hand, an activity can be any number of things a person enjoys doing throughout the day. These might include hiking, biking, yard work, sports, swimming, or parkour, just to name a few. However, they are all forms of exercise. The trick is to find the activities you enjoy doing, and to make them work with your goals.
Most people do not get enough exercise to maintain a healthy weight, and reduce negative health conditions. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that we get 150 minutes of aerobic activity (or 75 minutes of vigorous activity) every week, in addition to a couple of days of weight training. This is at least 21 minutes of aerobic activity per day, not including time spent lifting weights to increase (or maintain) lean muscle mass. It’s important to note that these numbers are strictly for maintenance, and health benefits. More specific goals will require more activity.
How Much Activity Do Dogs Need?
Most dogs require a lot of activity! There are different types of dogs, some smaller, some larger, and one will need more exercise than another. For the most part, dogs need at least 30 – 60 minutes of activity everyday. Wandering around in the backyard, or taking a quick walk around the block may not be enough activity for many dogs.
My girl, Abbey, is a Rhodesian Ridgeback, and she needs a ton of exercise. She walks, she sprints, she trains, and she goes on adventures (many of which are on this site) on a daily basis. She is two years old, so she is still young, although no longer a puppy. I know when she wants me to come outside and play, and I know when she is ready to go for a walk. She enjoys exercise so much that she will never turn down the opportunity to do anything.
Some activities will tire Abbey out more than others. Sprinting (a vigorous activity) will require a break after only a few minutes. On the other hand, a walk needs to be about 45 – 60 minutes long to reveal signs of tiredness. Ten minutes of play with other dogs and she will be good for awhile. It all depends on the activity, weather conditions, and those involved.
Your vet can recommend more specifics for your furry friend. In any case, I believe it is safe to say that many dogs are not getting as much activity as they need. People (in general) aren’t getting enough activity these days, and neither are our dogs. One simple solution is to workout with dogs. Let’s take care of two things at once by increasing our own activity levels, and our four legged friends by working out together.
Use Dog Parks for Fun and Exciting Exercise
It’s no surprise that dogs love going to the dog park. This is one of the only places where they can run, and play freely with each other. We may be able to train them to “behave” throughout the course of a day, but that doesn’t change what dogs want. They want to sniff, run, chase, play, and have fun. Perhaps this is similar to how we once acted as children (except for the sniffing part, I never got into that).
Exercise is fun for dogs. To them, exercise is something they would get naturally during the course of their lives. Since becoming domesticated, and being confined to areas in which we live, they don’t have as much control over that. It is our duty to help keep them active, and the dog park is a great place to do that. We’ve been to more than ten dog parks so far, and have included them on this site. We have many options in San Antonio, but you may not depending on your location.
When you take your dog to the park, don’t just sit there and expect him to know what to do, be an active participant. Encourage him, play with him, and make sure he is getting along with the pack. Remove him from play if there is a mean dog present in order to avoid a potential incident. If your dog is the mean dog, make sure he gets appropriate training before allowing him to mingle. Nobody likes a bully.
The only rule at the dog park is to have fun, or at least it should be the only rule. If he likes being chased, chase him, or encourage him to play with the other dogs. Consider playing fetch, or catch if there is adequate space. If she prefers your attention you may try playing tag, or more specific training in an environment full of distractions. Many dog parks contain obstacles which are great for dog agility training. Just be sure she is healthy, and caught up on required medication. Other than that, feel free to have fun together.
Dog agility is a sport where a handler leads a dog through a course of obstacles. Dogs will go over, under, around, and through obstacles as quickly as possible. This requires a combination of endurance, and training. If your dog is driven to play, and is good at listening without being easily distracted, she may be great at dog agility.
Naturally, some dogs will be more suited than others. If he gets easily distracted, or runs out of aerobic endurance quickly, he will be much more difficult to train. Even if you have no intention of competing in dog agility, you and your dog can still have fun with it. If there are no courses nearby, use some creativity, and train him to perform feats of agility on objects you have in your area.
Biking with Dogs
Biking is a popular activity for humans, but we don’t see too many dogs accompany bikers. It is more risky than running because you will need to make sure your dog is trained well enough so that he doesn’t cross in front of your bike. He will also need a high level of endurance because keeping up with a bike requires more work.
There is specific equipment available for biking with your dog, but training may be required first. Unlike running where you move your feet faster while your dog follows alongside. When Abbey and I run, I find it amusing as she simply appears to be walking fast, while I am clearly putting in much more effort. We haven’t attempted biking together yet, but I hope to do so someday. It’s just a simple matter of training her while on leash, since we do have leash laws here.
Swimming with Dogs
Many dogs enjoy playing in the water. Mine does not. She is an African breed, and does not enjoy getting wet. However, we have not tried swimming together, which could make all the difference. Swimming is a great form of exercise because pushing through the water provides resistance, while keeping yourself afloat. It is not running, or weight lifting, but your body is getting the benefits those forms of exercise provide.
In our area there are many Texas State Parks which allow swimming. It also gets extremely hot in the summer, so this is something we may try. Much like running and biking, if you swim, your dog will most likely follow along. You could do laps with your dog, get in and out of the water, or play Marco Polo! This will work like a charm if your dogs name is, Marco. Make sure the water is safe for you and your pup.
Hiking with Dogs
This is our favorite activity. There are hundreds of parks here in San Antonio, we have visited many of them, and included them on this site. We know where to find the best hiking trails in San Antonio. There are so many parks in this area, you could attempt to visit a different one everyday for a year, and nearly accomplish it. Your situation may be different, but you should be able to find some places to hike with dogs.
On the trails there are many things to see and sniff. Choose from concrete, asphalt, gravel, and natural trails. Ensure the surface is not too hot for your dogs paws. Bring water, and a collapsable bowl from which to drink. There are normally plenty of dog friendly drinking fountains in this area, but we try to carry a collapsable bowl when it’s hot.
Some parks provide a map at the entrance. Consider taking a picture of the map so that you do not get lost. Some parks merely contain a single loop, while others have multiple loops and connecting trails. Pavement may be easier to navigate, but it may also be hot and less shaded. An hour long hike can be great exercise for you and your dog. Grab the best dog harness you can find, and hit the trails. Enjoy the sights and smells while navigating the environment together.
When they hold a “Yoga with your dog” event, and your dog ends up laying there while you do yoga – that is not considered a workout with dogs. Although, we appreciate the fact that your dog was allowed to accompany you to a dog friendly place. A real workout with dogs should involve you and your dog exercising together. Currently, this is not a popular activity, but one day it could be. We can dream, right?
So how do you workout with dogs? That’s a great question. In traditional partner exercise you would work together with another person to accomplish an activity, or exercise. An easy example is a back to back squat. With your back against another persons back, you would each perform a squat at the same time. If you do not work in sync together, the activity falls apart. However, if you work as a team you accomplish a task while maintaining good form.
The partner squat could be completed for reps, held at the bottom for a set duration, or you could lift one leg while in the bottom position. There are creative ways to make partner exercise fun, and/or challenging. We could easily apply this idea in order to workout with dogs, although it will also require a bit of training. The size of your dog will also determine which activities are appropriate.
Abbey is 60 pounds. If I teach her to climb on my back and proceed to do squats, or push-ups, she provides a fair amount of resistance. However, if your dog is ten pounds he will not be providing very much resistance. It may or may not be enough depending on your level of fitness as well. Nothing is set in stone, and this is the part where creativity will come into play.
This is currently my first dog fitness article, and I hope to incorporate ways to workout with dogs into part of this site. Perhaps, Abbey and I, perform a lateral shuffle while doing high fives? Maybe we do leap frogs over each other? We might even do alternating squat jumps. There are endless possibilities which have yet to be explored.
Workout with Dogs
This is just a short list of ways you can workout with dogs. Do you and your dog workout together? Feel free to share your own ways via photos, or text. Would you like to see more information (including photos and videos) on this site? Let us know what you would like to see in the comments section below.
Exercise is very beneficial to us, and to our furry, four legged friends. We don’t always enjoy it as much as they do. Perhaps we might enjoy it more if we were exercising together? Exercise makes us healthier, happier, and gives us the opportunity to live longer. Lets get it done together.
I’ve been a personal trainer for nearly a decade, certified by ACE, NASM and WITS. Helping people reach their fitness goals and potentially live longer is a true honor. I have over 1,000 hours of coaching experience with seniors, youth athletes and individuals with disabilities.
I can help you feel better, and live longer. Even though I share workouts on this site, you are solely responsible for trying exercises, or places discussed here. Let’s move better, live longer and wander more often.