“Fitness is great for all levels, ages and breeds. Every dog can benefit from fitness,” says Brittni Heywood who is a certified dog trainer, certified professional canine fitness trainer and the owner of Potential Unleashed in the Boise, Idaho region.
It’s time to get physical! Love it or hate it, exercise is just as important for your dog as it is for you. I try to be physically active at my local gym 3x a week and go for daily 20 minute walks with my pup. Helps keep both me and my dog healthy. The Pet Health Network points out that obesity can lead to future health issues like arthritis, heart and breathing issues, and can even take two years off your dog’s life!
I love talking to other pet professionals and reading articles from experts about pet health, so I decided to share some fitness tips that have come my way. Of course, always call your own dog trainer if you have questions or concerns about beginning a fitness program with your pet.
Watch out for these fitness myths
Exercise is great for both you and your dog! It can help your dog look and feel better, and even make them less nervous when left alone, according to fitness experts at Texas A&M.
There are some misconceptions out there about weight gain or lack of mobility that can cause pet parents to ignore signs that their dog is less fit. Here are just a few.
My dog is just getting old. Aging is natural but that doesn’t mean limping, mobility challenges like difficulty getting into the car, are normal.
Fitness and exercise are for injured/athletic/overweight dogs. Even young or fit-acting dogs can benefit from an exercise plan.My dog absolutely loves her daily walks and being able to play fetch in the park, it has really benefited her and allows her to sleep better at night and be well rested.
It’s normal for senior dogs to put on a little weight. Gaining weight doesn’t have to be a given as your pup gets older. Good nutrition, fitness for fun, and regular exercise all work to help prevent it, too.
Fitness and exercise go far beyond weight loss. It’s a way to help your pup improve cardivascular health, and improve balance.
One point that’s definitely not a myth: If you have concerns about your dog’s weight or reduction in mobility, or if you want to significantly increase your pet’s activity level, a visit to your veterinarian for a health checkup is your first fitness step!
“It’s important to start your dog on their fitness journey early. Don’t wait for an injury. Be proactive, not reactive when it comes to their health and fitness,” says Brittni. “A regular fitness routine can help them develop the strength and balance they’ll need to have a great quality of life, even as they age.”
Work at your dog’s pace
Moderation is key. When working on fitness with your dog, pick activities that match their level of fitness, and allow them to choose when they have had enough for that session. They will slowly improve over time. If your dog is done for the day, let them be done, so they continue to enjoy – not dread – their fitness sessions. If it’s clear your dog doesn’t enjoy or is uncomfortable with one of the suggested exercises below, like scary-looking stairs, choose another they enjoy.
Too much exercise can also cause problems, like sore muscles, wear-and-tear on paw pads, joint issues, heat sickness, and your dog could begin to dread rather than enjoy their play sessions with you.
Some eager-to-please-you dogs may keep chasing that ball as long as you continue to throw it, so keep initial fitness sessions short and watch for signs of fatigue. You may need to be the one who says “Time’s up!”
5 Entertaining Exercises for Canine Fitness
The following exercises are probably quite different from how you normally play with your dog. Remember that going for daily walks and other simple activities are also great ways to help your dog stay fit.
1. Up and down stairs. If you don’t have stairs in your home, look around your neighborhood and see where you can have some safe, outside, stair-training fun.
2. Hide and seek. Calling your pup when you’ve hidden somewhere in the house is a fun game with a lot of fitness benefits.
3. Walk, sprint, walk. I like to think of this as canine interval training for energetic pups and people. The best part of this exercise is that we can both take this at our pace.
4. Fetch. Who doesn’t love watching their dog run back to you over and over, with fun and love in their eyes? This is our favorite thing to do with our pup, and she loves it too that as soon as she knows it’s WALK time the ball is in her mouth. Some dogs feel compelled to chase a thrown toy even when they are tired, so don’t overdo this if you can see your pup is getting pooped.
5. Walk backwards. When I walk backwards, I feel like my body is unsure what is happening. Your dog will likely have a similar experience. Learning and practicing “back up” helps them use their muscles in a new way.
When you’re looking for ways to improve your pet’s health, always double-check advice you find online – even mine! – with your veterinarian or an expert source like the Pet Health Network You can find even more exercise tips here