Getting in Shape With Your Dog: 5 Activities for Summer

How long to train a dogThere’s something counterintuitive about leaving your dog at home while you go out for a workout.  Many domestic dogs aren’t getting enough exercise as it is, and we humans could always do with a little more fresh air and a little less Netflix.

Why not combine the two?  Rather than feeling guilty every time you leave your pup at home to head to a stuffy gym, consider ways that you can spend time with your dog and get some much-needed exercise for you both.  Read on for five summertime activities to help you and your dog get in shape while having fun at the same time.

Follow That Dog

Dog walking (or running, depending on the fitness levels of both you and your dog) is the obvious way of getting in shape with your dog.  Unfortunately, dog walks can quickly become a monotonous exercise, where the two of you robotically retrace the same steps and follow the same path day after day.

For a fun and interesting twist give your dog what they’ve always wanted and let them lead – at least part of the way.  Pretend that your dog knows exactly where they want to go, and let them use their inbuilt GPS (a keen sense of smell) to determine your route.  So as to not let your walk get out of hand (you don’t want to find yourself stranded three towns over) work out how long you’d like your walk to take – say, 30 minutes – and then let your dog lead the way for about two thirds of that time (in our example, that would be 20 minutes).  For the remaining time, you can take over the walk again and make a straight line for home.

Remember that part of the activity is to let your dog stop and sniff as much as they choose.  Imagine your dog’s delight!

Hiking

If you are lucky enough to live in an area with – or have easy enough access to – hiking trails, this could be the perfect way to have some outdoor fun in the sun with your dog.  If you’ve never hiked before, try not to be too worried about the equipment or fitness levels required. There’s nothing to say that you have to hike the entire trail each time – just do as much as you and your dog are both comfortable with, before heading back.  Just make sure you’ve got enough water and snacks to sustain you both, and slowly build your way up to longer heights.

Yoga

It may never have crossed your mind to combine yoga and playtime with your dog, but it’s a trend that’s becoming quite popular throughout the US.  Dog yoga, or “doga”, is being offered in some progressive pet-friendly yoga centers, with some even offering mindfulness classes for humans and dogs to take together.  

Even if you don’t have a dog yoga class near you, there are plenty of online videos and other resources that show different ways of practicing yoga with your dog.  Once you’ve mastered a few of the poses, ask someone to take some photos or videos of your efforts: if you’ve ever seen clips of dogs and humans doing yoga together, you’ll agree it’s incredibly clever and cute.

If you do manage to find a dog-friendly yoga class for both of you to attend, check out 5 ways to keep your dog safe at public events.

If yoga is not your thing, look for fitness or Boot Camp classes that include dogs.  We’ve even heard of classes that specialize in helping people in wheelchairs or those with limited mobility to improve their fitness and flexibility while spending valuable time with their dogs.

Water Sports

Summertime is the perfect time of the year to engage in outdoor water sports, and there are plenty of activities that your dog would love to join in.  Stand-up paddleboarding is the perfect example. It’s a good idea to get your dog used to standing on the paddleboard on dry land before venturing out into the water, and if you’re not an experienced paddleboarder yourself, it’s best to organize a lesson for both you and your dog so you’ll both get the most out of the activity.

Most dogs naturally love the water and are confident swimmers, but of course, you want to make sure you have a well fitted and brightly colored lifejacket on your dog just in case.  

Dancing

Dancing would come pretty high on the list of fun things to teach your dog.  It may be hard to believe, but “musical canine freestyle” is a recognized competitive sport that people and their dogs can take pretty seriously.  Involving humans and dogs dancing together to a choreographed routine, participating in events organized by the Musical Dog Sport Association can see dogs and humans earning trophies and training for hours on end.

If you like the idea of enjoying a fun dance workout with your dog but you’re looking for something a little more low-key, try turning on your favorite up-tempo music and using online videos or other guides to teach your dog dance moves, like moving in sync with you, and weaving between your legs.  As long as you’re both having fun and enjoying the music together, you’re sure to burn calories and have a few laughs at the same time.

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The benefits of heading outside with your dog for a mutually beneficial summertime workout are obvious: much-needed fresh air and exercise for both of you, plus a rare chance to spend some relaxing quality time with your dog.

There is an additional benefit of working out with your dog: it feels like fun, not like a workout.  You could probably burn off the same amount of calories in the same amount of time on an elliptical trainer at the gym or by going hiking with your dog.  You could increase your upper body strength by swimming laps at your local aquatic center, or you could take your dog stand-up paddle boarding.

Which would be more enjoyable?  If you had time for just one activity on a sunny Sunday afternoon, which would make you feel like you’ve had a weekend well spent?

About The Author: James Woller is a long-time dog enthusiast, and co-owner of Jet Pet Resort and Release the Hounds, professional dog service companies.

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