Keeping your dog healthy

Exercising with your dog can be a fun rewarding experience which can lead to health benefits for both the dog and owner. Here are a few ideas to help you get started…

Before you start any exercise program with your dog, a trip to your vet is recommended to assess your dog’s readiness for exercise and suitable intensity levels. This is particularly important if you have a Senior Dog who suffers from health problems such as arthritis, where low impact exercises are more suitable.

Top 10 Tips

1. A daily brisk walk

Taking your dog for a long brisk walk is a great way to start exercising together and will provide the building blocks for a stronger heart, denser bones, and lower blood pressure. Walking around the local park or down public ways will keep it nice and local, alternatively use it as an opportunity to discover new places. Dog walking can be a real social experience for you and your dog, and you will both start seeing some regular faces or tails on your walking route.

2. Take a hike

Extend your daily walks to a weekend hike. Your dog will love exploring new environments and will be excited by all the new smells and animals that they encounter. If you are going for long hikes on rough surfaces, you may wish to consider investing in some dog boots to protect those delicate paws.

3. Go for a run

Running is a great way for burning off those extra calories. If you plan to run, then there are a few things that you need to consider. Firstly check the weather, as dogs don’t sweat so you will need to avoid sunny days. Consult your vet to assess the suitability of the age of your dog, as well as the breed. Wait until your puppy is fully grown, and be careful with ageing dogs as high impact running may not be suitable. Your dog’s breed will have a strong impact on whether running is a viable option, for instance, a Labrador will be much more suited to running than a Shih Tzu or Chihuahua. Finally, if you are running and your dog is lagging behind, stop and rest.

4. Taking your dog to the park

The park is a great place to lose the lead and have fun with your dog, especially if you take a few toys along with you such as a Frisbee or ball. Playing fetch and catch with your dog is a great way of building a fun relationship as well as giving them an opportunity to run around. To help avoid muscle strain from overzealous throwing, try using a ball launcher where you can throw twice the distance so your dog gets more running. If you’re a football fan, then take along your football, and watch your dog enjoy tackling you.

5. Dance with your dog

Pop on your favourite track and dance like you just don’t care. Your dog will love running through your legs, and if you get ambitious to encourage them to perform the odd trick or two while you strut your stuff.

6. Get some wheels

Cycling, skateboarding and rollerblading are also a great way to exercise your dog. However, your dog will need to be well trained to do this safely. Minimise the danger by avoiding roadsides and pavements, and reward your dog when they run without pulling you around. Using a shock absorber will help reduce the strength of your dog’s tugging.

7. Take a dip

Whether it is in the river, at the beach or in your paddling pool, swimming can give a full body low impact workout that improves endurance, strengthening the heart and lungs. This is especially useful for senior dogs who suffer from arthritis. Remember that not all dogs like water, so take treats for encouragement and if your dog continues to resist water, then you should try an alternative sport.

8. The secret to making it work

As a dog owner, you are responsible for the success of your dog’s exercise routine. First and foremost, be realistic with your own fitness levels and the amount of time you can dedicate to your dog’s fitness. A great way for ensuring success is to enrol the rest of the family into the routine, assigning different fitness tasks or days to your family. Finally, team up with a fellow local dog owner, and enjoy the sociable experience of doing the activities together.

9. Stay hydrated and avoid hot weather 

Hydration is important for both you and your dog, this can easily be prevented by taking a water bottle for your dog, or a lightweight bowl, so they can share your water. Look out for signs of dehydration such as excess panting, confusion.

Dogs can’t sweat, so be sure to check the weather so you can avoid exercising at the hottest times of the day.

10. Don't over-do it 

It's good to have a balance of exercise and rest. Make sure you're not overworking your dog, and take note of the signals they are giving that communicate this. If your dog is refusing to following you, staggering or panting excessively they are probably being overworked. Don’t forget yourself, if you are taking days to recover from each outing, you may need to change the intensity of your workout.