Exercise Your Dog: A Guide to Getting Started

Whether your dog is young or old, it's never too late to start him on an dog exercise plan. Dogs benefit from running, walking, and fitness routines that help them to burn calories and tone their muscles. A regular exercise plan will also help your dog avoid behavioral problems, which can arise from pent-up energy.

Refer to this beginner's guide for exercising your dog correctly.

Warm-up to Walking

Prepare your dog for any form of physical activity with a warm-up ritual. Before each round of exercise, begin with a slow walk to loosen up your dog's muscles. Take him for a romp around the yard before setting out on an extended walk.

If you are just beginning your walking routine, start with short walks and then gradually increase the length of the journeys little by little. Take your dog for a walk down the block or a short path, and then every few days add a new segment onto his route.

Be consistent. Dogs are creatures of habit and love to get into established routines. Give your dog exercise on a daily basis. This way, he will look forward to spending this alone time with you.

As you extend the length of your walking trips, he will also build up more resilience and stamina. For a dog on a weight loss program, this increase in activity is especially important. Routine exercise will help an over-weight dog shed pounds and keep his heart healthy.

Jogging with Your Dog

After you establish a successful walking pattern for your dog, kick up his cardio with a brisk jog. At first, your dog may have trouble adjusting to the rhythm of running. He might speed ahead of you or lag a few steps behind. Get your dog to follow your pace by alternating your running speed between slow and fast.

If you have a puppy, try not to overrun him. Intense exercise puts too much stress on a puppy's joints and newly forming bone structure. Likewise, elderly or obese dogs should not be exposed to fast-paced running workouts. Rather, ease them into a walking regimen or explore play-based activities.

Add Variety to a Dog's Workout

Invite your dog to participate in the exercise you love. By involving him in different physical activities, he'll work a wider range of muscles and have a positive bonding experience with you.

Here are some ways to ease your dog into an enjoyable exercise program with you:

  • take your dog on a hike
  • run with him along the beach
  • invite him to scale small hills
  • encourage him to climb stairs
  • involve him in aerobics and calisthenics

You'll find that maximum play equals a healthy and happy dog; below are other forms of exercise for your dog:

  • fetch or frisbee
  • agility classes
  • obstacle courses
  • ball catch
  • rope play
  • retrieving games
  • swimming

Regularly Monitor Your Dog's Exercise

As you try and find the best routine for your dog, you will begin to see clues about what he likes and can tolerate. A normally healthy dog can endure a long walk making only brief stops to sniff or urinate. But when a dog sits down and won't move, he's reached his limit.

If your dog is panting heavily or keeps taking excessive breaks, he has been overworked. Watch your dog closely to see if he becomes tired or overheated during the exercise. Then, ease up on the length of activity to give your dog a chance to adjust. Always bring along a bottle of water to hydrate your dog during physical activity.