Fido Fitness: Exercising With Your Dog

By: Robert Cabral, dog trainer and member of the Wag! Advisory Board  

Exercise is a healthy habit for us as well as for our dogs. I’ve been active my entire life and have always shared that with my dogs. Staying fit with someone you love strengthens the relationship, and who better to share it with than your dogs? Still, when exercising with your pets, there are a few things to consider. 

What can your dog handle? 

The most important consideration is how much exercise your dog can handle. To be safe, you might want to consult your veterinarian. Consider your dog’s age, breed, and overall health. Some dogs, no matter how young or healthy, cannot handle much physical activity. These include brachycephalic dogs such as pugs, Frenchies, bulldogs, and similar breeds. These dogs typically cannot handle anything beyond a walk. Playing ball, frisbee, or running could be life-threatening for these dogs.

Instead, opt for short walks throughout the day to help them stay active — always keeping the outdoor temperature in mind. Brachycephalic dogs can quickly suffer heatstroke on warm days.

You should also keep very young and very old dogs from stressful exercise, including running and jumping. Such physical activity can be hard on their bones and joints. Instead, give them a rest at home while you hit the gym. They can still benefit from regular walks, but only as far as they can handle. If you have any doubts or questions, ask your veterinarian. 

Exercising = Bonding

For the rest of the dog kingdom, exercising with their pet parents will be a fantastic bonding experience. Dogs love activities that involve running, chasing, climbing, tugging, pulling, swimming, and just about everything else we like.

Walking is an excellent activity that is perfect for almost any dog. To take that up a notch, try running or hiking. My girlfriend, Janet, and I love bringing our dogs along on hikes. I recommend hiking on trails that aren’t too busy. And we always keep our dogs on leash while kindly encouraging others to do the same. 

My favorite time to hike is early, before others come out, and later in the day.  These times are also cooler for the dogs and us. While hiking, always be sure to have water on hand for both you and your dog. You’ll also want to beware of foxtails and wildlife, such as poisonous snakes, depending on your location. 

Swim, Fido, swim!

Swimming is another great activity for most every dog. While most people think dogs are innate swimmers, this isn’t always the case. I always recommend a life-vest if it’s your dog’s first time near water. A natural swimming area like a lake, pond, or beach can have hidden dangers. That’s all the more reason to stick to a swimming pool. I like to swim laps in the pool with my dogs, and they love to swim next to me. Swimming is a low-impact activity that gets our heart rate up and keeps us both in shape. 

The list goes on and on

There are countless other activities that you can do with your dog to stay in shape. Online searches and asking friends with dogs may help you find the one that’s best for you. The key is to find something you enjoy doing together — and one that’s safe for your pup. Again, your veterinarian can help you determine what works best for your dog.

And when all else fails, a walk is a perfect way to keep you and your dog bonding and active!