Medically reviewed by Jennifer Garcia, DVM
Sure, dog is man’s best friend — but our furry companions are more like us than you may realize. Case in point: To maximize dog health, it’s critical for Fido to get regular exercise.
Keeping your pet healthy has a lot to do with good nutrition, but just like people, dogs are becoming more and more sedentary these days. Consider this: You can help promote good dog health by getting your pet up and moving.
Doggy Exercises For Your Pet — and You
Follow these healthy pet guidelines:
- Teach a dog new tricks. Even the simple act of teaching a dog basic tricks can be great dog exercise, says Cori Gross DVM, a VPI Pet Insurance field veterinarian near Seattle. “Basic obedience training is exercise for your dog’s body, as well as his mind. Teach him to come when called, sit, and stay. Then you can graduate to more complicated tasks such as greeting visitors without jumping.
- Take your dog for a swim. Jean Hofve, DVM, former editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association and current president of the Rocky Mountain Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, says that swimming is great for dogs, especially if they have arthritis. “If you don’t have a suitable lake nearby, canine rehabilitation centers are popping up all over,” she points out. A good way to get your dog into the water is to train her to chase a ball.
- Play hide and seek. Hiding a treat or a toy in a closet, under a bowl, or in a different room will keep your dog’s brain engaged as he plays, says Dr. Hofve. You can also try a dog toy called a Kong, which dispenses treats if your dog rolls it in the right direction.
- Give this ball a spin. Hofve also recommends Boomer Ball, a soccer-style, colorful ball that many dogs enjoy rolling around and playing with.
- Look for agility challenges. In many communities, you can enter your dog in agility challenges that can keep them fit and working at their best. “In agility training, dogs run through obstacle courses and compete for the best time and fewest faults,” says Susan Nelson, DVM, an assistant professor of clinical sciences at the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
- Try other dog sports. Agility challenges aren’t your only option for getting a dog involved in sports. “Depending on your dog’s temperament and breed, you may want to consider a range of other options, such as simple obedience training, Flyball, Earthdog, tracking, herding, lure coursing, musical freestyle, or any of the other dog ‘sports’ available,” says Hofve.
One of the best things to do for your dog’s health is to choose exercises that are healthy for you, too. Here are workouts that dogs and owners can do together:
- Walk it out. When it comes to exercises for you and your dog, the tried-and-true approach is hard to beat, says Hofve. “Walking, of course, is one of the very best exercises for both you and your dog,” she says. “If you have a very active dog, hiking is a bit more challenging.”
- Play fetch. You can’t go wrong with a good game of fetch, adds Hofve. “Fetching games such as Frisbee and ball-throwing will at least get you out in the fresh air and will be tremendous fun for your dog,” she says. “If you don’t have a good pitching arm, try a product known as Chuckit! to throw the ball.”
- Run with caution. Running or jogging is great for many dogs, but it’s best to approach both options with caution. Advises Hofve, “Make sure your dog is fit enough for the faster pace. Also, run early or late during hot weather, and always bring water and a collapsible bowl for your dog.”
- Do downward-facing dog — together. Yoga with your dog? Believe it or not, there really is such a thing. It’s called Doga, and there are classes and a DVD available to guide you through it.