According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than one-third of American adults are obese. But humans aren’t the only ones putting on the pounds; The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention indicates that more than 50% of cats and dogs in the U.S. are overweight, too. Obesity can lead to some serious health conditions in both humans and animals — including heart disease and diabetes — so there’s no time like the present to start eating right and exercising.
Many people avoid exercise because it feels like a chore, or simply because they aren’t motivated. This is what makes exercising with your dog so great. Not only will be it more fun, you’ll also stay on track knowing that your pal is depending on you to get them out and active.
Just remember to consult your veterinarian before starting any new exercise routine with your pup; every dog is different, and not every dog is cut out for every activity.
1. Take A Hike
While walks around the neighborhood and games of fetch in the yard are great, repeating the same routine every day can get boring for both you and your dog. Hikes are an excellent alternative not only because they get you moving, but also because they offer an opportunity to explore new locations and terrains. Just be sure to find a trail that is dog-friendly, and prepare your dog by building up to longer walks, making sure that their vaccinations are current, and protecting them from fleas and ticks. You will also want to bring water and first-aid supplies, as well as food for your dog if you’ll be on a longer trek.
2. Agility Training
Many people think that agility training is only for super athletic or naturally agile dogs, but the truth is that any breed can take part in the sport as long as the size of the obstacles are appropriate for your dog’s size. So just what is agility training? It’s an active sport in which your dog follows your cues to move through an obstacle course of jumps, poles, tunnels, and other objects. Your dog will be running, and you will too! To get started in agility training, the AKC recommends joining a local agility training group. Eventually, you and your dog will be able to sign up for agility trials. To learn more, visit the AKC’s Agility Homepage.
RELATED STORY: Try An Indoor Training Class With Your Dog
3. Swim n’ Slim
Swimming works the heart, lungs, and entire muscular structure without putting stress on the hips or other joints, which makes it a great workout for dogs with arthritis or hip dysplasia. When summer rolls around, or if you live in a climate that stays warm all year (lucky you!), consider taking a dip with your four-legged friend.
Before letting your dog in the water, remember that not all dogs are natural swimmers, and some dogs (like bulldogs) may not be able to swim at all without a floatation device. Start your dog out in shallow water and use a leash or floatation device if you need to. Support your dog’s belly and front section to encourage them to use all four paws. Go slow, be patient, and look for any signs of struggle. Don’t force your dog to swim; some pups just aren’t cut out for splish-splashing. However if your dog does take to the water, just remember never to leave them unattended, and don’t let your dog drink from lakes, streams, or other open bodies of water as they can contain parasites and harmful bacteria.
RELATED STORY: A Joint Health Exercise Routine For Dogs
Dog + yoga = doga. That’s right, yoga for dogs. Doga is a lot like regular yoga but has slight modifications so that your dog can participate along with you. While doga does sometimes include physical exercises for your dog (like stretching or standing on hind legs), it’s pretty low-impact, and has more to do with bonding. Dogs who are hyper, young, or weirded out by new situations might not be well-suited to doga, but if you have a well-socialized dog who enjoys trying new things, why not give it a shot?
5. Canine Freestyle Dancing
It’s an intriguing name, isn’t it? Canine freestyle dancing combines music, dancing, obedience training, and tricks for one pup-tastic choreographed performance. The sport has gained such popularity that there are now competitions held in several countries around the world. Canine freestyle is not only an opportunity for your dog to learn commands and for the both of you to get some exercise, it’s also a heck of a lot of fun. Visit the World Canine Freestyle Organization and or the Canine Freestyle Federation to find classes, and check out this video of a canine freestyle dancing competition.
Exercise helps to promote good overall health in your dog by keeping them limber, agile, and at an appropriate weight. Another way to care for your pet’s health? Sign up for PetPlus and save up to 75% on your pet’s medications plus discounts on boarding, supplies, and more.