Exercise isn’t just important for humans -- it’s vital for your four-legged best friend, too. An hour of cardiovascular exercise per day can increase your dog’s life expectancy, improve heart health, and keep your pup’s joints and lungs in top shape. As an added bonus, working up a sweat with your dog burns calories and keeps you fit, too. Here are some simple ways to be active together now so you can stay active later.
Running (or a brisk walk) is a great foundation for cardiovascular health. Some dogs will take to running more than others, and you’ll need to pay attention to factors like your dog’s breed, weight, diet, health concerns, and personality before you start training them to run with you. You might even want to put a quick call in to your vet to get advice on the tempo and distance your dog can endure on their first few runs.
To run safely with your dog, you’ll need to bring water, a stopwatch or GPS-enabled running app, and an extendable leash. When you first start running together, don’t try to break any personal records, especially on the first few runs. Let your dog get used to running at a comfortable pace, and don’t push them to a grueling speed. This is supposed to be fun!
Also remember where you’re running. Don’t run only on asphalt, concrete, or hard surfaces. These surfaces retain heat and can actually burn the pads of your dog’s bare paws, especially on hot days. Break up your run by traveling over grass, sand, or dirt trails. Finally, don’t start logging long-distances without building up to it. For dogs new to running, start with a manageable distance, like half a mile, and see how it goes. If your pup is panting a lot and seems to be lagging behind you, slow your pace or switch to a walk.
Yoga with your dog (nicknamed “doga” by enthusiasts) is one of the newer ways pet-lovers have come up with to get in some quality time and exercise, too. If you have a backyard space, you can add vitamin D to the mix while you stretch out in the sun.
You can start with a yoga mat, or just use your grass as a cushion. Modify traditional yoga poses (like Warrior, Tree pose, and of course, Downward Facing Dog) by grabbing your pup’s paws and showing them how to do the stretch. Don’t worry about them holding the pose -- they’ll just enjoy the movement and the special attention from you.
After giving your doggo a good stretch or two, get in some yoga practice of your own. While your dog might try to get in the way of your practice, try not to get frustrated -- instead, surrender to gratefulness that the two of you get to be together. Moving in harmony with your pet can help you bond, With some practice, doga can feel meditative and relieve stress.
After your dog has mastered the basics of playing fetch, you can use your outdoor space to up the ante a bit. Using a supply of 6 or 7 tennis balls along with some other objects (a smooth stick, a favorite toy, a tug-of-war rope), you can initiate a game of fetch that increases your dog’s heart rate - and yours, too!
Start by commanding your dog to sit and stay -- then sprint backwards and throw the first object up in the air. Run forward to the starting point as your dog runs to retrieve the first object. As your dog is bringing the first object back to you, command them to drop -- then run backwards and repeat with something new. You can keep cycling through different objects, introducing new things into the mix to keep your dog excited and interested. If sprinting backwards and forwards starts to get old for you, do jumping jacks or march in place while your dog is running to and fro.
These exercises are just the beginning. With a little practice, roller blading, biking, and obstacle courses can become part of both you and your dog’s routine. Start small, and before you know it you’ll be burning calories right alongside your four-legged friend.
Keep in mind that these activities when done on the lawn, can trample it a bit, so save some energy to give your yard some TLC at the end of your workout. Supervised play and hands-one engagement build your bond with your dog and make the most of your luscious lawn, too.