Exercising With Your Dog in 2013

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Is exercise on your list of New Year’s Resolutions for 2013? Man’s best friend can be your best exercise partner.

With your dog as your workout companion, you’ll get a loyal and eager exercise partner in return. Research has shown that you’re more likely to stick to your fitness program if you exercise with your furry friend.

Here are a few tips for exercising with your dog:

Walk or jog your way to fitness

Ready to turn your dog walks into short exercise routines? It’s the easiest way to start and a brisk walk can be great exercise for both you and your doggie. Start slowly (10 to 15 minutes) and work your way up to longer walks or jogs. Up to 20 or 30 minutes should be OK for most dogs, depending on their breed and health.

Beyond the walk

While walking and jogging can be great activities, why stop there? Add more variety with dog-friendly activities like…

  • Swimming – Water dogs like Labradors, Retrievers and Poodles enjoy swimming, especially during hot weather. Keep it short, fun and safe.
  • Obstacle course – Set up a homemade obstacle course in your backyard or visit a dog park with a course. While your dog runs the course, sprint with him to get your own exercise.
  • Fetch or tag – Take the average game of fetch or tag even further. Throw a ball or toy and race him to it or play tag where you’re “it.”
  • Canine dancing – Choreographed dancing with your dog is a sport called musical freestyle. Create a dance routine to upbeat music and burn some calories! Here’s an example on video.
  • Dog frisbee – This fun outdoor game can turn into a competitive sport for you and your pet. Keep it casual or join a “Disc Dog” club for more motivation.
  • Doggie soccer – Can your pooch kick it like a canine Beckham? Find out if he can push a large dog ball with his nose or paws for a game of soccer. It’s OK to use a soccer ball too, just avoid kicking it at his nose or body.

Check with the vet (and your doctor) first

Make a vet visit your first priority. During the vet check, learn of any breed-specific limitations that could affect Fido’s workout. You should get checked by your own doctor as well, before any new exercise routine is started.

Make the workout work for your dog

You may push your own limits in a workout, but don’t do the same with your dog. A Chihuahua, for example, can’t do a mile-long run, but he may be up for a brisk 20- to 30-minute walk. Be careful with smaller breeds in general and be extra careful with short-nosed breeds (pugs, boxers, chow chows, mastiffs, etc.). They can have problems breathing and cooling down effectively.

Mind the signs of health and safety

In his eagerness to keep up, your dog may overdo it, so it’s up to you to watch for signs of exhaustion or overheating. Heavy panting, pale gums, walking unevenly or lagging behind you are all signs that it’s time to stop. To stay safe, exercise in the mornings or evenings when there’s less heat and take a water bottle for you and him on long sessions.

Best of luck and we wish you and your pets a happy and healthy 2013!