"Get fit with your Dog
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"Get fit with your Dog

It’s that time of year where we all make our resolutions of a fit and healthier new year. Our dogs love to share our exercise plan, and it’s great to have a friend to keep you going and motivated.

We’ve listed a few exercise ideas and tips for beginners;

Walking

We all should walk with our dogs but don’t forget it’s a great exercise for us too. Not only does it give your dog a chance to lose energy and use their brain but it’s good for our mental health and meeting new people.

Playing

Playing games with your dog in the garden or a field is a really good exercise for you both. You can work on your dog’s training, which allows you to relax a little and makes for a more obedient dog. Playing fetch, even chasing your dog can be great fun, not forgetting calorie busting.

Hiking

Many people take their dogs on a hike. But first, make sure you have taught your dog to walk on a loose lead rather than pulling. It will make for a much more tiring hike for you both otherwise.

  • Make sure they are legal. They should be microchipped and have a dog tag on their collar.
  • Use a harness rather than a collar.
  • Plan your route first, making sure it is suitable for a dog.
  • Watch the weather, it needs to be comfortable not too hot or cold.
  • Let people know where you are going.
  • Take water and snacks for you both and make sure you both stop and rest.
  • Don’t forget to carry a First Aid kit for those unforeseen emergencies.
  • Be prepared. Start slow and on easier, shorter routes. Build up you and your dog’s exercise levels and endurance.
  • Keep an eye on their paws – check them regularly on your hike.
  • Remember your lead etiquette, pick up poo, keep them on the lead, and do not allow them to bother other animals or wildlife.

Flyball

Flyball is amazingly fast paced and energy driven. If you haven’t seen it, two teams compete against each other with their dogs running down a racing lane over a hurdle to trigger a ball to release at the end which they catch, then they return the ball to their owner. It’s a great way to meet other owners and fantastic exercise for you both. Flyball events can be found online.

Agility

Is great for intelligent breeds with lots of energy such as collies. It involves lots of training to jump over obstacles, run up ramps and through tunnels. It’s great fun for those who become involved. There are plenty of agility clubs around to join and help you train your dog in the correct way. Most people will be familiar with it from watching Crufts.

Doga

In other words, Dog Yoga. Yoga is calming, relaxing and one of the best exercises for us. It can prove helpful with depression and mental health problems. Now, you can do it with your dog. You will do most of the poses yourself, and simply help to stretch your dog and massage them. Whatever you do don’t force your dog to take part and be aware of their body language. It’s a great way of bonding, relaxing and can mentally stimulate your dog. You can find courses online or look locally.

Running

This takes a little bit more preparation.

  • Firstly, check with your veterinary surgeon that your dog is fit enough to run with you. They will give them a thorough health check. They will give you an idea of your dog’s body condition and how fit they currently are, checking for any underlying conditions.
  • It’s very important that if your dog is an adult if you are deciding to run with them. Puppies should have limited exercise in the first year to prevent damage to their bones.
  • Be aware of your dog’s size, age and breed. Short nose breeds will no doubt struggle to breathe so it’s wise to find some other way to exercise together. Smaller dogs may find it difficult to keep up with your pace or the distance.
  • Build your dog’s distance up gradually as you would yourself.
  • Most of us know how long our dogs can walk. You may have a route you always do together. Begin with a twenty to a thirty-minute walking route. Something you are familiar with and walk often.
  • Then, build yourself up to jog. Start for just five minutes. Slow jog, then walk, then jog and so on until you can both jog the entire way.
  • Slowly increase your speed. As you did with the jogging do the same with the speed. Faster for five minutes then back to a gentle pace. Continue with this until you are both running the entire route.
  • Always pay attention to your dog on the run. Make sure they are not limping or struggling in any way. If you think they are, stop and take a break. Do not over exercise your dog. Take the lead from them.
  • Set your pace to your dog’s and not the other way around.
  • Carry water for you both.
  • Once you have built up your running to a reasonable standard, experiment with different routes.
  • As with hiking, be mindful of the weather. Do not go if it’s too hot or too cold – watch for frost. It’s always sensible to go early morning or evening. Also, make sure they are legal with a microchip and dog tag.
  • Do not allow your dog to eat before running, always eat after. Give your dog at least an hour after running before giving them food.
  • Take your phone with you and tell someone where you are going.

Exercising with your dog not only strengthens the bond between you but makes for a more well-behaved pet. Training, the correct diet and mental stimulation means they are much more content and relaxed in their everyday lives reducing any behavioural problems.

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