We’re all looking for new ways to get fit and some of us even dared to make this a New Year’s resolution for 2022. But anyone who has tried getting fit in the past knows how crucial a work-out buddy can be, for supporting and encouraging us, as well as holding us accountable. That’s why we recommend including your dog in your exercise routine.
Dogs can’t tell the time, and yet they know when dinner time rolls around, and they make sure we know it too! Imagine your jogging partner is your dog, and you don’t fancy getting out of bed and going for a run that day – there’s a good chance your dog will force you out of bed anyway and get you outside in the fresh air. And once you get home, you’ll probably be thankful that they did.
In this blog, you’ll find tips and tricks to get into exercising alongside your dog, and with a bit of luck (and routine) you’re likely to accidentally create the most enthusiastic personal trainer in the process.
1. Find an activity that you both enjoy
It’s much easier to stick to your routine if the exercise you have planned are fun and exciting for you both. If the weather is nice enough, try taking the exercise outside, which can help keep dogs engaged. Explore new woodland on walks together or if you live near a coast, go for a swim in the sea, or go on a bike ride through the countryside. There are so many different activities to choose from, including:
- Dog agility
- Trail running
- Paddle-boarding or surfing
- Dog Yoga
You might even have dog-friendly exercise classes in your local area, do a bit of digging and see what’s on offer near you and go from there.
2. Prepare in advance
Firstly, this means treats! You’ll need to condition your dog to want to exercise with you, because even if they generally enjoy being fit and spending time with you, their attention can easily wane – especially if you’re outside.
So, pack a bum-bag filled with lots of high-reward treats, and make this part of your work-out get up. Wear it every time you work out with your dog and reward them for every good behaviour. It won’t take long for your dog to put two and two together!
For different activities you might require different apparatus, so do your research and see what you will need. For example, to take up trail running with your pup, you’ll need to ensure that your dog's leash or harness is secure. It shouldn't be too tight or too loose and you should always have control over your dog. Likewise for swimming, while you might not require any floaties, if you plan on swimming in open water with your dog, it might be wise to invest in a doggy lifejacket, to protect them in case of any sudden currents.
3. Build on the routine you already have in place…
If you like to take your dog on walks around the neighbourhood, great! You’re already off to a good start, now it’s time to build on your current routine in manageable increments. That might look like taking a different route with more uphill terrain to give you both a cardio work-out, or maybe it’s to stop in a remote area and complete a short circuit of activities – from yoga, to push ups to sprints. There’s something for everyone, of all fitness capabilities.
The key part is starting slow, stretching plenty and gradually building up the intensity, so that you can avoid getting injured. Both you and your dog will need to build up your stamina before you hit those big fitness goals.
4. Hydration is key
One of the best things about exercising alongside your pup, is you’ll be reminded of the importance of hydration at every step of the way. Bring plenty of water for you and your dog, because staying hydrated is a key component to getting fit.
On a similar note, factor in short breaks to make sure both you and your pup are getting fit, safely. Slowing down to a walk so that your dog can stop and sniff the grass is a great way for you to catch your breath and for them to engage the all-important olfactory bulb in their brains. That way, when you get home, you’ll have tired your dog out both mentally and physically.
5. Get connected
Make friends in local community with similar goals, get involved in #dogtok on TikTok and keep a log of your progress with fitness apps. You can download apps that log your running route, or keep a record of the exercise you complete.
Logging your milestones and the improvements you notice in your everyday health is a great way to stay on track and meet your goals. But exercising regularly with your dog has a variety of other benefits, including developing the closeness of your bond and improving both of your mental health.
Routine exercise can also help your dog overcome any problem behaviours they may have, such as excessive barking and destructive behaviours.
Exercising together will help stimulate them mentally and if you keep a diary of your progress, note down the changes you see in both your life and your dog’s behaviour. You might be pleasantly surprised by the end of the year!