Friday, August 20, 2010

Staying Fit With Your Dog

I was thrilled when I saw the issue of SELF on the newstands this month.  What did I see on the front cover?  A fit young lady and five puppies!  Obviously, this must have something to do with staying fit with your dog.  Sure enough, it did.  Not only did it give tips and ideas for you and your pet, SELF also included 6 cards with 6 different moves for you to do with your pet.

Why does this excite me so much?  Well, there are a variety of reasons.  First of all, did you know that approximately 51% of all dogs and cats in the U.S. are obese (Association for Pet Obesity Prevention)?  If you figure that at least 1/3 of all human adults in the U.S. are also obese, you can see that there's a very serious epidemic on our hands.  Also, at least 75% of the issues I see in dogs are caused by boredome.  Just think what a little bit of exercise would do for both us and our dogs!

Exercises I Like Best

I'm first to admit that I haven't tried even half of the exercises that are out there.  I don't do any serious mountain climbing, I don't ski (often), or surf.  However, I feel this will most likely benefit you, my reader, because most of you probably don't do all of those things either.  So what do I do?

I love going for little bike rides with my dog, Cody.  Sometimes we'll go through a quiet town, and other times we'll go through a park.  Either way, it's super fun.  However, it is only fun if you take the right precautions.

1) Never attach the leash to you or to your bike.  This could be a recipe for serious injury.  I actually invested in a bike leash ($25 on  It attaches to your bike underneath the seat and makes it pretty much impossible for your dog to pull you over.  Plus, it makes it harder for your dog to run in front of you.  Double Bonus!

2) Keep an eye on your dog.  Biking keeps him moving at a faster pace, and if you're on pavement it could wear the pads of his feet down.  If he's not used to that much exercise, keep him at a slower pace and shorter distance at first.  You can gradually increase each as your dog becomes more conditioned.  And, of course, always make sure he has enough water.

3) Know your route.  Make sure the roads are safe for both you and your dog.  Narrow roads with lots of traffic are probably a bad idea.  Some park trails are narrow or have plants in the middle.  You could have serious problems if your dog tries to go around a bush one way while you go the other.

Of course, these are just a few precautions.  As always, you have to do what's best for you and your dog.  If your dog isn't designed for heat/cold/running/lots of exertion/etc, then maybe it's best if you do something else, or customize it to your needs.

My favorite thing with biking is you can do it pretty much anywhere.  Technically, you don't need any special equipment (although good running shoes are a fantastic idea).  All you really need is you, your dog, and a leash.  Head out in a safe environment and take off.  Again, of course, it's best to slowly build your dog up to higher speeds and long distances.  Plus, if you are going for longer distances, you should take plenty of water for you and your dog.  When I go out with my dogs, I usually only go about 2-3 miles, and I go out in the morning before it gets warm.  If you plan your runs perfectly, you can even use sprinkler systems to help cool your dogs down.  My best suggestion is to have some semblance of a plan.

This is one I have not tried yet, but I really want to.  It's basically yoga with your dog.  From what I can tell, it's more for smaller dogs, but there are defintely some good moves for larger dogs too.  To learn more, check out Doga Dog.

The simplest of all the exercises, walks don't require much.  Of course, make sure you're not going out when it's too hot or too cold, but otherwise have a blast.  If your dog is a little higher energy than you are, try having your dog carry a backpack.  Just remember, your dog should only carry half of his own weight (maximum).  Also, gradually get your dog used to the extra weight.  Again, though, have fun!

There are lots of other things you can do with your dog (like skiing, surfing, or even skate boarding).  For dog-specific events you can get into things like agility or canine freestyle.  The important thing is that you have fun with your dog.  Get outside, get your dog outside, and have a blast!!

For more ideas, check out the August issue of Style Magazine.