The Best Workout Partner Yet: Your Dog!

Posted on 11 June 2015

Lots of folks can agree that dogs make great companions. Sure, there’s a lot of potty training, and fur, and getting into the garbage, but hey- we all have bad habits, right? Dogs are commonly used as companion animals for a variety of physical and mental health conditions, as loyal, cuddly, amiable buddies with brains to boot. Plus, they’re awfully cute! What if your dog wasn’t just your Netflix buddy and dinner companion, but your workout partner as well?

We all know that dogs need to “go out,” and a lot of times, that creates an image of a harried, over-worked human looking into the middle distance, bag in hand, while Fido does his business on a strip of grass. In fact, you could be missing a wonderful training opportunity- as well as a bonding session- with your pooch! Dogs have a contagious, boundless energy (with the exception of my childhood Basenji, who enjoyed sleeping in sun patches), and their enthusiasm can be contagious. Look at how much energy your dog has- and he’s probably half your size! So instead of letting yourself stress while you take the dog out, strap on a leash and your running shoes, and take a nice, long, mind-clearing walk! Walking with a dog has been found to increase speed and distance- while it’s easy to talk yourself out of walking faster and longer, your dog is excited to explore and release all that energy.

A dog can help you stay on track with your workout sessions, as well. Dogs maintain an internal schedule, and your pooch will get used to having a set time to join you in your exercise. And unlike human workout buddies, your dog generally won’t cancel on you last minute. Depending on the size of your dog, you can maintain a good variety in these workout sessions- walking works for just about any size dog. Just make sure you start with a small walk, then build up over time, just like you would for your own workout technique. Sprinting and jogging might be options for those with bigger dogs- dogs are very competitive by nature, and will challenge your pace by wanting to stay ahead of you. You can also play tug-of-war with your dog and a safe rope (available at pet stores), go swimming, and chase a Frisbee together (just run with your dog after you’ve thrown the Frisbee, instead of watching him run to catch it!).

Another activity that’s catching on in a big way is hiking with your dog. This takes a little more prep work than simply going for a walk, but it can be awfully rewarding to explore new places with your pup! First, make sure you’ve found a dog-friendly trail, and check on the regulations for that trail- most have a website that provides guidelines for dogs and humans. Most trails also require dogs to be on a leash, so make sure your pup has good leash manners and recall. There will most likely be other hikers, dogs, and wildlife sharing the trail with you, and you don’t want to interfere with another party’s good time. You can find doggie saddlebags at pet supply stores or online- make sure you pack light and work with the saddlebags before your big hike so you don’t overwhelm your dog. You’ll want to be sure to pack extra water- no drinking out of unknown water sources like puddles or streams- as well as food to keep his energy up. Prepare to double bag and pack out poo, or bury it- leave nothing behind. If you’ll be hiking into dusk or camping overnight, you’ll also want reflective visibility gear for your pup, just in case.

We’ve all heard that dogs are “man’s best friend,” and now, dogs can be “man’s best workout buddy,” too! Just take your time training, and be as gentle on your best friend as you would be to yourself, and soon, you’ll have a friendship that extends away from the sofa and back into the wild.

Have fun, be safe, and stay active!

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