When it comes to exercise, I can’t think of a more enjoyable way to sweat than with your furry best friend. As a lifetime dog lover and exercise nut, I often get asked if walking the dog is really exercise. My 15 year old pup Hazel Mae has logged countless miles with me and definitely challenged me to keep up with her. I, by no means, claim to be a dog expert. However, as a devoted doggie mom with a professional dog trainer in the family, I do have a few points of wisdom to share when exercising with your dog.
Prepping Your Pooch
Make sure to consult your vet before starting an exercise routine with your dog. Have your vet check out your dog’s joints, feet, nails, body weight, and coat length. Just like us humans, dogs need to gradually build up their joint and muscular strength. Excess body weight can also wreak havoc on your dog’s joints so be careful to feed appropriately and start your exercise routine slowly. Also, a dog’s feet can greatly impact their ability to walk with their owners. A dog’s foot pads need to gradually build up to the road surfaces, and longer toenails can be painful if not trimmed appropriately. If your dog has long hair, walking in the early morning or at night may be more appropriate to prevent overheating. Your dog’s genetics is another essential thing to consider. High energy breeds and larger dogs tend to be better exercise buddies due to their large muscles and bred in need for exercise. By no means, do I suggest you take 4 mile walk with your Shih Tzu or Chihuahua since these little guys are meant to be lap dogs. Just like we need recovery days, don’t expect your dog to walk 3 miles every, single, day. Dogs do get sore and stiff just like their humans do, and your walks you should always be an enjoyable experience for the two of you.
Maximize Your Walk
When it comes to walking a dog, the exercise intensity entirely depends on your pooch and your fitness level. My Hazel Mae could walk four miles in under 50 minutes leaving me sweating and panting just trying to keep up. Our “Pup on a Mission” style of walk may not resemble every pet and owner walk. A major thing I must stress is that your dog is plain and simple, a DOG. Your furry friend needs to sniff things, bark at other dogs, and most importantly pee on everything!
During these moments of pure dogdom, challenge yourself with a little extra human exclusive exercises. As doggie does what doggie loves, I like to do a few stretches, body weight exercises, or plyometrics. Has your pup stopped at the eighth mailbox in two blocks? See how many jumping jacks you can do before they stop sniffing. Any body weight exercise can be built into your walk with the dog. Try a few squat jumps, stationary lunges, push-ups, bench dips, or burpees every few blocks as your furry friend takes a break. Attach the leash to a tree or bench so that your dog can rest while you do a few wind sprints. Try carrying a pack with supplies for your pet and equipment for yourself. While your dog takes a water break, get out the packed resistance bands for some bicep curls, shoulder presses, or lateral raises just to name a few. Whether your pet is 100 pounds or 10 pounds, there is always a way to keep the rubber, and the pads, pounding the pavement.