Whether you live in the Urban Jungle or the Open Country is your thing, these fun exercises can help strengthen the bond you have with your dog and can help you both get fit together.
WAG NOTICE: The key to developing a canine and human workout program is to make it enjoyable. If you or the dog does not enjoy the activity it is being asked to perform its focus will drift and movements will not be purposeful. The biggest thing contributing to your dog’s enjoyment is YOU. Whatever your fitness level is you can still do something with your dog. The key is engaging with your dog – If you enjoy the activity your dog will too. Consult with a Veterinarian and/or Family Doctor before starting in any fitness program that is different from normal activity to avoid injury.
Warm-Up Activities for Dogs and Their People:
All dog activities should begin with a warm up to prevent injury. Raising the body temperature and making muscles more flexible and less susceptible to injury is preferred. A brisk full body rub down can also help stimulate blood flow before activity.
1. Spin – Increases Circulation, Warms the Body, Stretches Back: Stand in front of your dog bend at the waist concentrating on keeping your core strong, legs slightly bent and hip distance apart, keep your core muscles engaged. Use a treat to lure the dogs nose and verbally cue with “Turn” or “Spin”. Bend at the waist and Move your hand in a circle one direction and then the other. Reward as your dog completes its circle.
2. Chair Stretch – Stretches Neck and Back: Lure our dog to put front feet on the seat of a chair or stool. You – stand next to the chair or position the chair in front of you. Every time you lure your dog’s nose up for a stretch do toe raises. You can stand on a stair or do it on a flat surface – warms up your calves and legs. Reward with each stretch up. Resume foot position each time you start over.
Cardio Activities for Dogs and Their People:
Cardio activities should be carefully monitored during colder weather when surfaces can be slippery and in hot weather when temperatures soar. Ensure you both have the proper gear. Start slow and build up. For overweight dogs please consult with a professional as these activities may be performed with shorter distances and reduced intensity.
3. Spot Sprints – Increases Speed and Endurance: Can be performed inside or out. Use the same instruction as the Spot-to-Spot warm-up but increase intensity and repeat 10-12 times. Try extending the distance between spots or adding obstacles for you both to jump over, around, or crawl under to make it fun. Make it a race.
4. Jog-Walk-Jog – Increases Endurance and Speed: To kick up your heart rate, establish running distances between street lights or mailboxes and alternate your gaits between a brisk walk and a run, or a walk and a jog. Try to continue at least 10-15 minutes and increase distance by 10% each week. This activity can also be done on a dog treadmill during extreme weather days. Position your cardio equipment with your dogs and you can elevate your heart rate together.
5. Play Ball – Increases Agility and Speed: Use any toy your dog enjoys to chase and bring back to you, perhaps a snowball will do. Throw the toy or snowball and then race your dog to see who gets it first. If you don’t win, still follow through and reach down at the end pretending to pick it up to increase calorie burn.
Strength Activities for Dogs and Their People:
Increasing your dogs muscle and tendon strength will go a long way to decreasing injuries and preserving healthy joint movements.
6. Squats – Strengthens and Stretches Rear Legs: Both you and your dog should start in a sit position. You will use an imaginary chair, a real chair or a stability ball. Your weight should be over your heels, not in your toes. At the same time position a treat above your dog’s nose as you sit in the imaginary chair. Slowly bring the treat upward by pushing the weight in your heels and slowly stand while angling the treat slightly to the rear of your dogs head. Lure your dog to bring the front feet off the floor and sit on the back legs only. Reward your dog the moment the feet leave the floor. Build distance and time your dog can bring the front paws off the ground by luring with a healthy treat. The slower you both can move from squat to stand the more strength you will build. Repeat 10-12 times and increase over time.
7. Hill/Stair Climbs – Increases Strength, Stamina for Front and Hind Legs: Start with small hills/stairs to build up to longer and steeper hills/stairs as you and your dog gain strength. At the top turn around and go back down. A slow purposeful movement for stairs is better than running and skipping stairs to work on strength. You may choose to do one-legged step squats on the uphill to work your legs more. Repeat.
8. High Five – Strengthens and Stretches Rear Legs: From dogs sitting position grab one front paw and lift up to get full extension, show the dog with your hand where you want placement. Encourage with a healthy treat. Repeat other side.
9. Dance – Strengthens and Stretches Rear Legs and Core: Turn some tunes on and invite your dog to put his/her front paws on your chest or in your hands and walk forward and back, side to side then jump around to the beat.
Cool Down for Dogs and Their People:
It is very important to give yourself and your doga chance to cool down after any activity to prevent injury and reduce soreness. It is also an excellent transition to let your dog know you are done. Finish with a brisk belly rub and a calming massage while you also stretch and bring your heart rate down.
About the Author: Krista Wickens is an athlete, lifestyle fitness advocate, author, speaker, inventor, and co-founder of PetZen Products, a manufacturing and design company dedicated to designing canine fitness products and programs. She is also the co-author and producer of the first Treading for Dogs DVD and 30-day Dog Treadmill Training Program. As a former fitness product manager, Krista created best-selling products and programs used by some of the biggest names in Human Fitness, including iconic brands like Reebok, Gold’s Gym and NordicTrack. Krista’s love and understanding of animals, particularly dogs, started on a Montana Cattle Ranch where she was raised. She trained her first dog, Bear, at the age of 7. Her unique understanding of the mechanics of fitness and canine experiences have led her on a mission dedicated to helping develop healthy and beneficial relationships for dogs and their humans.