Midlife is the time to move, strengthen your muscles, and stretch more. But what can we do if we have a lack of motivation? Working out with your puppy may be the answer to your fitness goals and a great help for your pet’s health, too.
Your little friends could add a whole new level of excitement and commitment to your exercise routine: they are always eager to head out the door, and they never cancel on you at the last minute meaning their energy can be very contagious. But remember, before beginning any physical activity with your four-legged friend, be mindful of his/her preferences (a bulldog for instance won’t be too keen to run on a long jogging trail) and consult your veterinarian to ensure your pet is in good condition for what you’re planning: your dog’s exercise program should always be tailored to their age, size and breed.
Finding the Right Activity For You and Your Dog
There are several ways to incorporate your dog into your fitness regime. Whether it’s a brisk walk to the local park and a game of fetch in the backyard or a quick swim, here are the most popular workout options.
The simplest way to keep fit is walking, a great activity for both of you as it doesn’t damage your joints, it can be done in almost any weather, and it lets your pet explore. Brisk walking for 30 minutes per day is recommended for improving muscular strength, circulation, memory, and sleep, as well as increasing energy and reducing stress. Doing it with your dog simply add more fun. Start working slowly toward a goal and slowly increase your speed and how far you walk. To avoid big distractions for your dog, remember to keep him on a leash: you don’t want your pet to spoil your training by running out of sight or into a street. Use a sturdy, non-retractable one to give you more control, as well as a harness instead of a collar, to avoid pulling on your dog’s neck.
- Playing fetch
If you prefer a soft activity for you and your pet, then playing fetch is always a good workout. Choose a toy that your dog likes to hold in his/her mouth. Soft balls, squeaky and fleecy toys are all great choices. In case you want to elevate your game, frisbee is the workout you should consider. You can play a relaxed session in your own yard or join a formal “Disc Dog” team. Participating in competitions may give you and your dog greater motivation to practice regularly.
If you love running, make sure you introduce it gradually to your pet. Wait until your pup is fully grown and then slowly build up to a 30-minute excursion. This should include five minutes of warm-up, 20 minutes of jogging, and five minutes of cooldown. Remember that dogs can’t sweat, so avoid the hottest times of the day. Also, look for softer ground like grass or a park when going for a run with your dog as pavement can hurt your pet’s paws. It’s always better to run on a trail as it would prevent damaging your dog and make you train harder because of the uneven terrain. Caution: Don’t feed your dog in the hour before or after a run; doing so can cause bloating and abdominal discomfort.
According to the American Hiking Society, hiking with dogs provides health benefits to both the pets and the owners, as well as deepening their bond through shared experiences. Like walking, you’ll need to keep a brisk enough pace to elevate your heart rate. To fully enjoy your adventure, be sure to keep your dog well controlled so that other hikers don’t feel frightened or threatened. Also, don’t assume that other dogs you might meet on the trail are friendly, even if they are wagging their tails. Keeping your dog on a short leash is important for safety, courtesy, and control. Like any training exercise that you do with your dog, consistency is key. Take the time to practise regularly and reward your dog for staying on track.
This new way of exercising took notice of the already high correlation between yoga poses and the way that animals stretch. A trend that was created by Suzi Teitelman in 2001 and has been growing in popularity in the yoga community, dog yoga or doga (the practice of doing yoga with your dog) is a fun way to not only take part in an exercise class but to spend quality time with your pup as well. The best way to practising it? Having your pup sit or lay down when you transition back and forth amongst the different poses. A fantastic opportunity to bond with your dog
Swimming is a great complete workout that offers both muscle toning and aerobic benefits. When practised outdoors is also a good chance to get your dog moving. Keep the first session short and stay at your pup’s side, praising and encouraging forward paddling. Start in shallow water and gradually expose your four-legged friend to deeper water. If your dog only uses the front legs to swim, you can help by placing a hand under the lower abdomen for support. Make sure your dog is well-suited for swimming. Often, short-legged, long-bodied dogs (e.g., Dachshunds, Scottish Terriers) are not the strongest swimmers.
- Fitness classes
They usually take place outdoors, if the weather is clear, but they may also be indoors, depending on the facility. Programs may vary: they often combine strength training for people with some basic obedience training and/or a physical/mental workout for dogs. Cardio exercises, in particular, incorporate dogs into the physical activity and introduce them to different challenges such as running around cones or over obstacles. Leash Your Fitness in San Diego, California offers a wide range of classes such as hiking, surfing, kayaking, yoga, trail running, upper and lower body classes and boot camp classes, all for people and their dogs.