Our furry friends make ideal exercise buddies. Dogs are naturally energetic creatures – they relish the chance to burn off steam and spend time with their favourite people. Working out with your dog will not only keep you both in shape, but you’ll form a bond stronger than you ever thought possible.
And it doesn’t have to mean the same old walk around the usual stomping grounds. Owning a dog gives us the perfect opportunity to try new experiences and discover different ways to keep fit. From low intensity to high intensity workouts, there’s something to suit all pooches and their humans.
Below are 10 fun ways to workout with your dog to keep you both happy and healthy. But first things first, a few safety tips to bear in mind before you head out.
Safety tips for exercising with your dog
- When exercising in summer, be cautious of your dog overheating and avoid the late morning and afternoon sun. Ensure you keep your dog cool and recognise the signs of heatstroke.
- Avoid hot pavements as they can burn paws. If it’s too hot to hold your hand on the pavement for 5 seconds, it’s too hot to walk your dog.
- The snow, ice and salted roads of winter can also irritate and damage your dog’s paws. Consider dog boots or stick to indoor exercises to prevent injuries.
- Carry plenty of fresh water and a collapsible bowl so you can both rehydrate.
- Monitor your dog’s energy levels. If they’re falling behind take a break or call it a day.
- Ensure your dog has great recall for off-lead activities.
- Make sure your pooch has an ID tag in case they run off.
- Use reflective gear so other people are aware of your pup at night time.
Please note: There are affiliate links in this post. If you click a link and make a purchase I may receive a small commission at no cost to you. I only give recommendations for items I’d use myself and feel will benefit my audience. Thanks for supporting our blog!
Canicross is essentially cross country running with your dog. Your dog is harnessed and attached to a line at your waist. You both work as a team while you direct your dog with commands from the back and your pooch drives ahead from the front.
Canicross is a fun, high intensity workout you can both enjoy. But just like us, our dogs need to build their fitness levels before running long distances. Start with short distances and work your way up as you both improve your fitness.
Don’t attempt Canicross until your pup is at least 12 months old, as their bones and joints are still growing during the first year. This can be up to 18 months for bigger dogs.
Canicross is generally more popular with medium, large or working breeds, but don’t disregard smaller breeds. Small pooches may just need shorter runs and perhaps more breaks. Consult with your vet if you’re unsure if this exercise is suitable for your pup.
Essentially all you need for Canicross is a comfortable fitting harness for your dog, a bungee line and a waist belt to clip the line to your front. Here’s a highly recommended lead and waist belt you might like to try if this exercise tickles your fancy.
If you’re keen on cycling there’s no reason why your dog can’t join you for the ride. You just need to ensure you use a harness and an attachment that lets you ride safely. A cycling lead will keep your dog a safe distance away from your bike and detach if they jerk suddenly.
Start off with short journeys in a quiet area to work on some crucial training. Help your dog get used to being by your side with turns and stops. Introduce verbal commands like ‘lets go’, ‘stop’ and ‘easy’ to help your dog understand what you want from them.
As with Canicross, only introduce cycling when your dog is at least a year old, or longer depending on the breed. Stay away from busy roads until you’re confident your dog will stay under control and won’t put you or themselves in harms way.
Agility is a great cardio workout for both you and your dog. As your dog navigates a course while running and jumping through obstacles, you run alongside giving guidance, praise and encouragement.
Since the object of the game is to achieve the quickest speed possible, you’ll slowly get faster and improve your fitness over time.
You could make a homemade course at home if you have a large enough garden, or you may be lucky enough to live by a park with its own agility course.
If your dog’s a natural, you could also search for classes and compete in competitions. A quick Google search will help you find an agility class near you.
Not all dogs are keen on water. But for those that are this is a fantastic all body workout for you and your pooch. Swimming is easier on joints and particularly good for dogs with arthritis.
For those that need a little encouragement, start slowly. Use toys and treats to tempt your dog into the water. If they still refuse you may want to think about trying another sport you can both enjoy.
It’s not easy to find a swimming pool that allow dogs, so wild swimming will be your best bet. Head to the beach or a lake and start with short distances. Keep close to the shore and consider investing in a doggy life vest to start. You may not know how far your dog can comfortably swim and you don’t want to put them in any danger.
Hiking can be a wonderful experience to share with your dog and connect with the great outdoors. Our pups embrace the opportunity to explore new places and take in new sights and smells.
Hikes can range from short, low intensity days out to thrill-seeking adventures spanning a few days. Always start slow and work your way up as you both improve your fitness and become more experienced hikers. Simply search online for hiking routes in your area that will match your current ability.
As hiking generally means you’ll be on your own, always prepare for every eventuality. Take plenty of water, ensure your dog has an ID tag and carry a first aid kit should accidents happen. Ensure your dog has protection against ticks and fleas – you don’t want to bring any unwelcome visitors into your home.
With classes popping up all over the world, Doga is essentially yoga with your dog. This workout includes your dog in yoga poses, but it’s not exactly a fat-burning activity for our pups. It’s more a bonding exercise to strengthen the owner/canine relationship.
But with stretching and massage, Doga can help your dog feel calmer and more settled. It’s said to help dogs and their humans lower stress and anxiety levels and improve their overall mental wellbeing.
If anything, it’s a great way to socialise your dog and help them settle around other dogs and people.
Fetch with muscle workouts
Playing fetch with your dog isn’t much of a workout for you if you’re just standing there tossing the ball. But if you combine it with workouts between throws you can burn calories and build muscle. Try incorporating squats, lunges, burpees or sit ups after chucking the ball each time.
Practice in your garden or head to a park where you can throw further and squeeze in more reps. Working in tandem, your dog will be getting a great cardio workout to keep their heart and lungs healthy while you build your core muscles. It’s a fun way to help you both keep fit and stay in shape.
Kayaking or canoeing
Why not try a whole new experience both you and your dog can enjoy? If you live near a lake, river or the sea, you’ll no doubt find places to hire a kayak or canoe for the day. Most companies don’t mind if you want to take your dog along too. But always check in advance to avoid a wasted trip.
Both sports provide a great upper body workout, and if your dog likes the water, they may be tempted to jump in for a swim.
If your dog is cautious around water, a canoe may be your best option as these have higher sides so your dog is less likely to fall in. But just to be on the safe side, you should provide a doggy life vest to keep them safe at all times.
Dog-friendly bootcamps work much in the same way as regular fitness classes, but with your dog by your side. These classes involve cardio workouts, muscle toning and strength, as well as training your dog to complete exercises.
Training a dog to perform exercises takes time and is achieved through positive training – i.e. offering a treat when they perform the correct movement. Although your dog may be an uncoordinated, bouncy fluffball to start, over time you’ll be completely in tune with each other and both realise the health benefits.
These exercise classes also claim to be a great way to strengthen your relationship and improve your dog’s behaviour.
Dog walking is usually the default exercise for most owners. But some owners admit they don’t walk their dog at all, and for others that daily routine can become tiresome.
Dogs benefit greatly from regular walks, with long-term advantages such as a stronger heart, lower blood pressure, stronger bones and joints, and a healthier mental wellbeing. And walking does a whole lot of good for our bodies too.
Experts say most people rarely walk fast enough to increase their heart rate and really see the health benefits. So instead of a slow amble around the block, go for a brisk walk and set goals you must achieve. Start slowly and increase your speed and the distance you walk over time.
Try new places to keep things fresh and exciting for you and your pooch as you explore.
If you’re a fan of football, I bet your dog would love being a part of the action too. You and your dog can burn lots of energy as you dribble the ball around your garden or down the length of a field. You could even teach your dog to pass the ball to you with their nose and paws with a little training.
Just be sure you don’t kick the ball too hard in your dog’s direction. You don’t want to land a ball hard into their face and spark a new fear or cause injury.
Dog dancing isn’t just you dancing while your dog bounces around like a crazy loon. There’s a fine art to freestyling that requires your dog to perform certain movements to music.
With freestyling, your dog is your dance partner. They perform predetermined tricks while you perform specific motions. Think Ashley and Pudsey from Britain’s got Talent! You use dancing routines that play to your dog’s strengths and the tricks they can reliably perform.
The way owner and dog work together can be absolutely breath-taking. Freestyling has got to be one of the best ways to have fun and build a better relationship with your dog.
How do you like to exercise with your dog? Which one of these will you try with your pooch next? Let me know in the comments below…
If you liked this post, you may also like: