8 Exercises to Do with Your Dog

By Alexandra Gekas

Once it's warm outside, everyone wants some fun in the sun. But if you're a dog owner, you may feel badly when you head out for exercise while your pooch whimpers from behind the window. Instead of facing a daily guilt trip, bring along your furry friend! Believe it or not, there are plenty of activities you can do with your pup that'll give both of you a wonderful workout. From swimming to biking to fetch, here are eight ways you can get fit with Fido. Photo credit: ThinkStock

Walking

It's one of the most common ways dog owners stay active with their pet, but there are better (and worse) ways to go about it. "Walking is easiest for everybody because it requires no special training and it's the one activity that poses the least risk of injury to pets," says Marty Becker, DVM, pet expert at Vetstreet.com and author of Your Cat: The Owner's Manual. "But don't start out too brisk with your pets, especially if they're overweight or obese." Instead, begin easy like you would if you were trying a new fitness routine and build up your dog's endurance. Dr. Becker's rule of thumb: Walk two blocks for every 10 lbs. of dog and add a few blocks each week as long as you and your pup are up for it.

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Running

Perhaps the best thing about running with your pooch is that once you get him used to it, he'll be the one getting you out the door. "Even on those days you don't want to run, that dog will make you miserable unless you go out at the appointed time," says Dr. Becker. But some breeds, like Dalmatians, retrievers, Australian shepherds and pit bulls, are better at running than others. On the flip side, toy breeds aren't natural runners, nor are breeds with short noses, like bulldogs, because breathing can be difficult. Taking it slow and building up applies even more to this sport, since you risk overexertion. "If your pet has been a couch potato, check with your vet before you begin a regimen," urges Katherine Miller, PhD, director of anti-cruelty for behavior research at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). "And if your pet seems reluctant to peel himself off the couch the next day, back off because he's probably not having fun. You want him to keep thinking it's a game."

Fetch

This simple game is a great way to keep everyone active. While Rover runs to retrieve and return the ball or stick, you're throwing over and over, which works out your upper arms. "I dart from one side of the yard to the other with my dog, plus I do squats as I pick up the balls," says Barbara Bushman, PhD, professor of kinesiology at Missouri State University and editor of the American College of Sports Medicine's Complete Guide to Fitness & Health. "I also do arm swings and leg swings between throws and, since neighbors can't see our play yard, I'll break out some dance moves when setting up for the next throw."

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Agility Training

Dogs love obstacle courses through which you lead your pet to jump over bars, run through tunnels, leap off platforms and more. And moving quickly and precisely is quite the workout for both canine and owner. Often, though, it's the person, not the pooch, who messes up. "I challenge people to get up from their chair the same way every night," says Dr. Becker. "Dogs follow your every move, so they know when you're making a mistake." Try agility training on your own or do a few introductory classes first. "Head to the dog park or playground and run around the equipment. Or set up your own obstacle course with cones to run around and hurdles to jump over," says certified personal trainer Nicole Glor, owner of NikkiFitness. "Put a treat at the end of the course or give a treat for each completed obstacle."

Yoga

Not only does "doga" improve strength and flexibility, but it also bonds owners and pets. "It gets you in touch with your dog. And then you'll notice more places where the dog is licking, warmer or inflamed than you would from looking at him curled up at the foot of the bed," says Dr. Becker. As far as actual poses, teach your pooch to do his own moves in addition to using him similarly to how moms use their children in baby yoga. "Teach your dog to do upward and downward dog. Then, do planks over him while he's lying down. You can do seated stretches with a little dog in your lap, you can both lay down and practice happy doggie pose (aka happy baby pose) and you can do final relaxation together," says Glor. "Just avoid tree pose, so you don't get mistaken for a potty target!"

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Strength Training

Your pup may not be able to pump iron, but toning your muscles is an easy addition to your walking routine. "Do lunges with the dog as you walk, then have him sit while you squat and do calf raises. Aim for 50 lunges and 50 squat raises per walk," recommends Glor. If your dog is small enough, use his weight as resistance. "Have him jump up to bite a stick you're holding and do a biceps curl with the doggie attached. Lower your arm and release the stick and your pup. Do 10 reps," recommends Glor. Just be sure to stay close to the ground and not lift him too high, in case he lets go. "Another small dog exercise is tricep dips with him in your lap-he'll love the elevator ride!"

Swimming

Swimming is one of the best workouts there is, for both you and your pooch! The non-impact sport offers cardio and resistance training. But, like running, not all breeds are a good match. Bull dogs, pugs and Chihuahuas aren't super swimmers, so stick to land routines with them. Most retrievers and spaniels like water, as well as Newfoundlands, poodles and Portuguese water dogs. "You can swim with them or slingshot something into the water for them to fetch," says Dr. Becker.

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Biking

Similar to running, you'll need a special breed if you want to take your pooch on a bike ride-golden retrievers, Labradors, pit bulls, Weimaraners and other big, muscular breeds are usually okay. And again, it's important to build up your four-legged friend's fitness level slowly until he has the endurance to run alongside you. Start by walking your bike with you on one side and your pup on the other. Then, do practice runs on your block during which you slow to a stop, turn and practice getting your dog's attention. Ready to ride as he runs alongside? Don't tie your dog's leash to the handlebars or other part of the bike: If he pulls, you risk tipping over. Instead, hold the leash in your hand. All that said, biking has lots of benefits. "It strengthens your bond, reduces pet behavior problems and makes you both happier," says Dr. Miller. "There are so many under-exercised dogs, and when dogs aren't tired, they're looking for something to do, like get into the garbage, bark at neighbors and other naughty things. The tired dog is the good dog."


Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.

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