Exercising with your dog

 
January 12th, 2009

Dogs Life editor Tim Falk cranks the treadmill up to maximum speed to find out how you and your dog can get fit together and shed those extra winter kilos…

Winter is the easiest time of year to stack on weight. Cold weather that keeps you locked up indoors, countless hearty warming meals and extra layers of clothing to conceal the chub all combine to turn your bathroom scales into your nemesis.
When spring comes to town and you no longer need all those woollen jumpers to keep you warm, the consequences of your winter indulgence become pretty obvious. Its around about this time that most of us realise its time to get out and pound the pavement.
Walking/jogging
There’s no need to explain this most basic form of human/canine exercise, but it is the simplest and most effective way for both of you to get fit. Its important to ensure that you don’t push your dog too hard if you take him for a run, but your pooch wont be too shy to let you know if hes had enough or if you’re going too fast.
Its also a good idea to avoid walking or jogging in areas where you know there are distractions for your dog, such as heavy traffic or neighbourhood dogs. The last thing you want is to be tripped up by your running companion as he cuts in front of you to bark at the Staffy behind your neighbours fence.

Agility
You might think agility would only exercise your dog, but youd be amazed how much activity is involved in the sport for people as well. Watch any agility competition or demonstration and you’ll notice how each owner runs around the course with their dog, giving directions and motivation to their athletic pooch. Many seem to be just as puffed as their dog after taking a turn around the course.
Another benefit of agility is that not only does it exercise your dog physically, its also great for keeping their mind active as they learn new things. You can even try setting up an obstacle course in your backyard at home to practise and work up a sweat.

Cycling
If your four-legged friend is super-energetic, you can get him to run alongside your pushbike when you go for a ride. Special leashes that attach to your bike allow you to free up your hands for steering and away you go.
Once again, its important to use commonsense when exercising this way. Dont force your dog to do too much make sure he is comfortable with the speed you travel. You should also avoid busy roads and make sure your pooch will not stop or change direction suddenly, sending you flying.

Swimming
We all know the many benefits that swimming can have for humans, but its also a very useful activity for canines. Swimming is low-impact, so it doesn’t put too much pressure on your dogs muscles or joints. This makes it a great form of exercise for dogs with conditions like arthritis or hip dysplasia and explains the growing popularity of pet hydrotherapy businesses.

Tug of war
This is another basic game you can play with your dog that will give you both a solid work out. Not only will it tire out your pooch, itll also work your shoulders and forearms. Plus, its heaps of fun for everyone!

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