If you’ve never exercised with your dog, but are interested in doing so, you might not know where to start. Your multiple walks each day might be exciting, but you’d love to turn that up to hiking or running. How do you get there?
Exercising with your dog can be a great thing, but you shouldn’t rush it. You also need to come prepared — depending on how long the two of you will be out for.
So what do you need to safely exercise with your dog? From all-natural dog treats to water to time and patience, here’s how you and your dog can pick up the pace without overdoing it.
Before You Work Out
First and foremost, there are some things you need to consider before jumping into a hard workout. Ask yourself: How fit is my dog?
Are they exhausted after a short walk? Do they seem winded after running up the stairs? Do they get tuckered out if you play wrestle for more than a minute? If the answer is yes to all of the above, your dog is not ready for vigorous exercise.
Instead, you’ll need to start off slow with them, easing your dog into exercise so not to overwork them.
But even if you have a fit dog, it’s worth consulting your vet before jumping into exercise. It’s a smart thing to do, as your vet can catch any things to look out for, along with offering potential exercises — depending on your dog’s physical condition. Your vet will also be able to confirm what types of exercise your breed of dog can handle.
Beyond that, you’ll need to consider some things on a daily basis. That includes checking the weather, hourly temperature, and considering what types of terrain you’ll aim for. Near 100°F out that day? Stay inside or settle on an easy-going swim. Does your dog seem more tired than usual? Maybe skip the rocky mountainous hike this weekend.
Knowing Your Dog’s Limits
Exercising with your dog can be fun, but you need to know what should be avoided. Exercises like this include:
- Taking puppies or senior dogs out jogging or running.
- Walking too quickly with puppies and senior dogs.
- Having your dog run on a leash in front of your bike.
- Playing frisbee for too long, past exhaustion.
- Swimming without a life vest on.
- Walking/exercising in the heat of midday.
Besides exercises you need to avoid, there are signs you should look out for — ones that will point towards your dog being at exhaustion. If you see any of the following signs, you need to stop exercising and allow your dog to rest and get water. These include:
- Excessive panting
- Excessive drooling
- Muscle tremors (shaking)
- Cloudy eyes
- Lack of urine
Once you’re out the door and exercising with your dog, they shouldn’t just run free. There are still things you should keep in mind while exercising. In particular, there are things to consider whether your dog is on or off leash.
While On Leash
While your dog is on leash, they shouldn’t be leading the situation. You should technically be in the lead, but you shouldn’t drag your dog along.
Here’s what you should keep an eye out for while out moving around:
- If you’re walking, keep your normal pace.
- Don’t change your workout schedules that much. If they’re used to short walks, go for short walks with a little more distance.
- Take a rest if your dog seems tired. Find some shade, sit down, and rest. Give them some water from your water bottle. Finally, get back to moving once they seem relaxed. Their heart rate and breathing has gone back to normal.
- Call it quits if your dog seems too fatigued to continue.
- If you have a puppy or a senior dog, avoid overexercising them. Overexercise can lead to serious health issues, particularly on the musculoskeletal system due to physical stress and exertion.
Now, it’s never recommended to allow your dog off leash while exercising, as it could pose dangers to your dog, bystanders, and wild animals. However, if your dog is not a fan of exercising, you might find they respond well to being allowed to run freely.
Find a safe space where they can do so. This could include an open soccer field off-season. Better yet, bring them to a large fenced-off dog park. Not only can they run around freely, but there are bound to be other dogs they can play with.
Don’t call it quits once your shared workout is done. There’s still more to be done!
It’s in your best interest to cool down once finished with your workout, but you should encourage your dog to do the same. They won’t stretch quite like you will, but you can get them to calm down by doing the following:
- Provide your dog with a bowl of water while you’re stretching.
- Coax them to lie down and rest, preferably in a shaded area.
- Once they’ve calmed down and seem relaxed, give them a small, healthy treat, something nutritious like collagen chews.
Exercising with your dog doesn’t have to be a fiasco. If you want to incorporate your dog into your workouts, keep it simple. Take them out on short segments of your run or simply let them follow their snout while out hiking in the woods.
Whatever you do, keep both your safety and theirs in mind.
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