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Exercise, as you might imagine, is a daily ritual for me and most at my house, including the dog and the cat. It seems that merely lacing up my shoes can ellicit tail waggin’ excitement from Isabelle, my 80-pound Lab. She know the word “walk” and of course, “squirrel.” I often incorporate her exercise into my workout and it turns out, she is a great workout partner.

Typically, we start our day with a 10 to 20 minute walk for her to sniff around the neighborhood. I plan for this time to be her workout and not mine, but it does often serve as a warm up for me. On days when it is raining, we will often play a game of “hide and seek,” or “find the treat,” obviously her favorite.

“Hide and seek,” is played by throwing her favorite toy and then while she is off “retrieving,” I hide. She has to find me and then it becomes a game of “I have my toy and you chase me!” Hiding treats inside is fun too because while she is sleeping, I will hide the treats and then call her to the room where I hide them. All I have to do is say the word, “cookie” and that sniffer goes into action. It is another fun and interactive way to get us both moving. Just don’t over-do the treats (good advice for canines and humans alike).

I have also trained her to walk between my legs as I do walking lunges across the floor. A great warm up for me and excellent agility training for her. All it takes is a few treats in my pocket and she is a drooling, enthusiastic and obedient workout buddy. Sometimes, while I am stretching on the floor we also play, “slobber-knot.” A game she invented as a puppy where she brings me this disgusting, cotton-knotted rope and either wants me to tug on it or throw it. It’s always wet from her chewing it, but she loves it and especially the part about me being on the floor. I am careful not to tug too hard, though she does not extend the same courtesy.

Not to be left out, the cat is also a great workout buddy. When I am practicing yoga or foam rolling (again, on the floor, Lucy) loves to show me how she is so much more flexible than me. There are videos on where you can see Lucy meandering through my arms and legs while I am in Downward Dog.

The moment I am on the floor, yoga mat spread out, Lucy appears and typically places herself on it, perfectly centered. I often end up starting my practice seated so I can administer belly rubs more effectively. This is where I learned that dogs are not the only pets who drool.

A few words of caution, be sure to check with your veterinarian to make sure the activity you engage in with your pets is appropriate. Remember, to start slowly and pay attention to your pet’s level of exertion and signals of fatigue. If you run with your dog, be sure to check their paws for injury and abrasions to the pads. Hydration should also be as much a concern for your dog as it is for yourself.

Have fun and enjoy your pets by safely incorporating them into your active lifestyle. You may find, like me, that even on days when you don’t feel like working out your furry friends can be great motivators.

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