You and Your Health
Staying Fit with Man’s Best Friend
Need some motivation to exercise? Grab a leash, get outside and work out with your pooch. Whether you’re starting an exercise program or needing some variety in your routine, exercising with your dog is good for you and your pet, and the time together strengthens the dog-human bond.
“Pets are such great de-stressors for us,” says Tamara Quintero, certified personal fitness trainer at Galter LifeCenter, and owner of a mixed-breed pup named Lainie.
Having a friend to work out with can be a huge motivator, and nearly all dogs love to get out and romp, making them great exercise partners, Quintero says.
Quintero teaches Galter’s dog-people exercise class taking place this summer. “Exercising with your dog gives quality time to both of you, and we’re hoping this’ll get owners to look at their lifestyles and get moving.”
There are plenty of activities incorporating your dog and exercise that can be done in a class or on your own. The two of you can warm up with a slow, medium or brisk walk around a park. With the dog standing beside you, do squats, lunges and stretches.
Quintero takes her class to the dog park area in River Park, across from Galter, where owners can do dips, push-ups and stretching while dogs play with their canine friends. Quintero also leads people and their pets in a set of long, side-by-side strides, as well as intervals and circuits around cones, trees and park benches, starting at a walking pace and working up to a jog, for those who can do it.
You can do these exercises on your own with your dog in any park. If you’re near a baseball field, the two of you could walk, jog or run around the baseball diamond. Your dog may also enjoy and benefit from agility exercises, such as if you hold a hula hoop and have your dog jump through, over or under it.
Just like humans, dogs need a warm-up and cool-down before and after exercise and access to water, says Quintero. And depending on their size, breed, age and health, dogs have different exercise needs, according to Dr. Susan Nelson, Kansas State University veterinarian and an expert on canine physical activity.
In a set of guidelines released by Kansas State, Nelson offers the following rules and tips for exercising with your pooch:
- In general, larger and working dogs need more exercise than smaller breeds. Medium/larger dogs tend to be better long-distance run partners.
- Try to exercise your dog at least twice daily, from 15-60 minutes.
- Frisbee and ball retrieval is fun, but keep your throws low to avoid doggie joint injuries from high leaps.
- Small dogs often enjoy playing fetch indoors.
Be aware of the following when exercising with your dog, says Nelson:
- Your dog, just like you, needs to build up gradually to longer, more intense exercise. Young dogs (especially large breeds) should avoid long runs until they’re at least 12-15 months old. Pounding concrete can damage growing joints.
- Hard surfaces and gravel can tear dog pads if they’ve only spent time on grass. Let your dog acclimate to new surfaces. Hot concrete can also burn your dog’s pads.
- Dogs can overheat in summer temps and dark-haired and long-coated dogs are at higher risk. Be sure your dog has access to water, and hose your dog down if she seems hot. If your dog is woozy, has thick saliva or a large, dark red tongue during exercise, stop exercising, get her in the shade and offer water.
- Exercise in early morning or cooler evening temps during especially hot weather.
- In cold weather, be aware that dogs can suffer frostbite. Protect feet with booties and a jacket if needed.
- To avoid stomach bloat, don’t feed your dog an hour before or after exercising.
Once you’re done exercising, Quintero suggests finding a cool place for you and your dog to sit and hydrate, and you can check your dog’s paws for cuts or wear.