Chances are you’ve made a new year’s resolution or two…or more if you’re ambitious. One of the most common is to get more in shape. Have you ever thought that your pup might want in on the action? Dogs love to run and play, so why not take on a challenge together this year?
Exercising with your dog can be a fun way to bond and to help them burn some energy. Here are a few fun ideas to get your pup in shape. Just remember—not every activity is for every dog, or every person. It’s best to consult with your vet and doctor before beginning.
For your dog...
Puppy Push-Ups—exercise and party trick!
If you need a new exercise to do with your dog, push-ups are one of my standbys. With the added bonus of being a fun party trick, puppy push-ups are great for beating the winter blues as they can be done indoors and work out your dog’s body and mind. This exercise works best if your dog already knows sit and lie down. If, he doesn’t, start with learning sit and lie down first before moving on the pushups.
Break some treats or a favorite toy and ask your dog to lie down. When he is lying down, reward him and ask him to sit. When he sits, reward him again. If you’re having a little trouble getting your dog to sit from lying down, try taking a treat in one hand and holding it a foot or so above his head. That usually does the trick. The goal is to get him alternating between sit and down freely—that’s your pup push-up! Watch the video here.
Doggie Suicides—a retriever’s dream
Is your dog a fetch-a-holic? Another great exercise to do with your dog is doggie suicides. Suicides are a sprinting drill, where an athlete runs to a series of targets and back to a starting line. In the doggie version, our target will be a toy. Get your dog, his favorite toy and head to a hallway or open area in your home.
While holding your dog’s collar, throw his toy down the hallway. When the toy has stopped moving, allow him to run to get the toy. Call him back for a game of tug—coming back to you should always be fun! You may be tempted to just play fetch in the hallway, but be careful! Some dogs will get so excited for their favorite toy that they won’t look where they’re going. By throwing the toy first and then letting go of your dog’s collar, your dog will get more out of this activity.
The treadmill—yes, indoor dog walking is possible!
Believe it or not, a treadmill is a great tool for exercising with your dog—especially for dogs who get cold easily or those who get rambunctious when cooped up in the house. Walking is the most basic type of exercise and second nature to your pup. If you have a treadmill at home, you can teach your pup how to use it safely. Like anything, the key is to use positive reinforcement, start slowly, and build up your dog’s confidence and ability before progressing. See our video below to get started.
Start by gathering your supplies. I like to teach this one with food, so grab a handful of your dog’s favorite treats. It’s important that these treats are small--and no bigger than your pinkie fingernail--as your dog will be eating them as he walks. Set your treadmill to the lowest possible setting. Show your dog you have treats in your hand and carefully lure him up onto the treadmill. When all four paws are on the treadmill, start feeding him treats. This should be done slowly, with one treat given right after the other. After you’ve given your dog a few treats, ask him to step down from the treadmill. In time, you can increase the time that passes between each treat. Start with a second or two and work your way up. Watch the video to get started.
For you both...
Hiking—get outdoors and have some fun!
Exercising with your dog is beneficial to you both! Don’t think you’re limited to slushy walks through town though—Hiking is another way to work those six legs.
Hiking is a great way to exercise with your dog. Snowfall doesn’t mean hiking season is over. Grab a pair of snowshoes and some cold weather gear and get out there! It’s always an enjoyable experience navigating a winter wonderland together with your dog. Keep your dog’s size and age in mind before enjoying this exercise. Small and older dogs may get cold easier than others and may not appreciate being out in the snow and ice. When in doubt, always ask your vet for advice. For more information on hiking with your dog in the winter, check out this great article from Zuke’s.
If you and your dog is up for a snowy adventure, there are a couple of things you can do to ensure your pup has the best time possible.
- Invest in a good jacket for your dog. One brand I particularly love is Hurtta. Their Extreme Warmer and Summit Parka keep my short haired dogs’ toasty in even the coldest conditions.
- Be sure you have foot protection. Snow has a tendency to ball up and get stuck in between your dog’s toes. This can become extremely uncomfortable. Fortunately, a good pair of dog boots or slathering on some Musher’s Secret usually does the trick.
Skijoring—stand back, relax, and let your pup do the work!
I could write an entire book about skijoring! Skijoring is a great way to exercise with your dog and is my favorite and dogs’ favorite winter activity, by far. Skijoring is a modified version of dog sledding, where your dog pulls you on cross country skis using a special harness and handsfree leash.
To enjoy skijoring, you don’t need a husky or sledding dog, many breeds can enjoy this sport. Your dog should be at least 35 lbs, well-versed in basic obedience, and you should know a thing or two about cross-country skiing (without your dog). Despite being herding dogs, my Border Collies and Malinois can’t get enough of this sport. They’re pretty good at it too—last winter we clocked in at nearly 20 mph! Check it out here.
Proper equipment is key for this one. While you can find many options online, I love this set from Ruffwear.
Once you have your gear, get your dog used to the harness. This can be done at home over the course of a few days. When you think he is comfortable, it’s time to hit the trails. Start somewhere that is relatively flat and straight, so you and your dog can get a feel for things before upping the difficulty. Many ski resorts have dog friendly cross-country trails—that is a great place to start!
Concerned you are going to ruin your dog’s leash manners by encouraging pulling? This is simply not the case. One of the benefits of using a skijoring harness is that your dog learns that pulling is only ok while he is wearing his special harness. It’s a win-win for everyone.
And remember, when heading outdoors to exercise with your dog in the winter, always be sure to check the forecast before heading outdoors and have a backup plan if it’s too cold.
Looking for a more relaxed way to exercise with your dog? Believe it or not, you can do yoga with your pup. Fans call it doga (pronounced doe-ga) and suggest getting started simply by doing yoga with your dog in the room. Your dog will often pick up on your zen vibes and join in, in her own unique way.
If you’ve got a busybody dog who can’t relax (having Border Collies, I know this problem all too well), try asking your dog to stay while you practice. Make sure to reward your dog regularly for a job well done. Not only does this teach your dog the calm of doga, it is a great mental exercise for her as well!
Is your dog still learning how to stay? Check out Nicole’s videos this month for tips and tricks for a solid stay.
If you are a seasoned yogi with a well-trained pup, you can take things a step further. Small dogs can be incorporated into yoga by holding them while you strike a pose, much like Mom-&-Baby yoga. Alternatively, you can balance your small dog on your body. Larger dogs can continue to rock those stays in new and exciting positions. A particular favorite of mine is having your dog stay in a bow next to you, while you practice your downward dog pose. Who knows, maybe your dog will make into the famous Yoga Dogs calendar!
By Haeleigh Hyatt