IMPORTANT: The key to developing an exercise program for your dog is that it must be enjoyable for the dog performing it, same goes for people. If a dog does not enjoy the activity it is being asked to perform its focus will drift and movements will not be purposeful. The biggest thing contributing to your dogs enjoyment is YOU. Whatever your fitness level is you can still do something with your dog. The key is engaging with your dog – If you enjoy the activity your dog will too. Consult with a Veterinarian and/or Family Doctor before starting in any fitness program that is different from normal activity to avoid injury. Here are 10 Canine Exercise and Conditioning Tips.
Warm-Up Activities for Dogs and Their People:
All dog activities should begin with a warm up to prevent injury. Raising the body temperature and making muscles more flexible and less susceptible to injury is preferred. A brisk full body rub down can also help stimulate blood flow before activity.
1. Tug of War – Stretches Neck, Back and Legs: Using a rope toy you can get your dog to engage in a game of tug of war to help stretch neck, back and leg muscles. Don’t make this an aggressive game; encourage just enough resistance to enable the muscles to stretch comfortably. Think low and slow. Pull back with your arms and use as leverage to apply resistance and you will feel a stretch in your muscles as well. Try using one hand at a time and bend at the hips in a forward stretch with legs apart and slightly bent to help stretch back and hamstrings. Remember to engage your core – pull your belly button towards your spine.
2. Hip Touches – Stretches Neck and Back: Dog is standing facing you. Use a treat to get your dogs nose to follow your treat to the hip area while front feet stain in place. You can position your dog on your left side and reach right hand to left toes – dispensing dog treat at your dogs right hip. Reverse sides. Repeat other side.
3. Spot to Spot – Raises Core Temperature and Warms Muscles: Create two targets approximately 10-25 ft apart. Use a leash and walk with your dog to direct to designated Spot #1. Then encourage your dog to walk to Spot #2. Stop at each Spot. Gradually Increase Speed – Repeat 7-12 Times. Do not start too fast.
Cardio Activities for Dogs and Their People:
Cardio activities should be carefully monitored during colder weather when surfaces can be slippery and hot weather when temperatures soar. Start slow and build up. For overweight dogs please consult with a professional as these activities may not be a suitable starting point.
4. Spot Sprints – Increases Speed and Endurance: Can be performed inside or out. Use the same instruction as the Spot-to-Spot warm-up but increase intensity and repeat 10-12 times. Try extending the distance between spots or adding obstacles for you both to jump over or crawl under can be fun. Make it a race.
5. Jog-Walk-Jog – Increases Endurance and Speed: To kick up your heart rate and increase calorie burn mix it up with intervals. Intervals vary speeds of high intensity with those of lower intensity. First establish running distances between street lights or mailboxes and alternate your gaits between a brisk walk and a slow walk, or a fast walk and a jog. Try to continue at least 10-15 minutes and increase distance by 10% each week. This activity can also be done on a dog treadmill during extreme weather days. Position your cardio equipment next to your dogs and you can elevate your heart rate together. We have clients that use an elliptical, rowing machine, bike or a human treadmill next to their dog-treadmill. Another option is to use a Reebok Step and do stair steps – fast and slow – while your dog is on the treadmill.
6. Play Ball – Increases Agility and Speed: Use any toy your dog enjoys to chase and bring back to you, perhaps a snowball will do. Throw the toy or snowball and then race your dog to see who gets it first. If you don’t win, still follow through and reach down at the end pretending to pick it up to increase calorie burn. Remember to watch and promote good form with these interval techniques.
Strength Activities for Dogs and Their People:
Increasing your dogs muscle and tendon strength will go a long way to decreasing injuries and preserving healthy joint movements. Add K9FITvest to increase intensity.
7. Squats – Strengthens and Stretches Rear Legs: Both you and your dog should start in a sit position. You will use an imaginary chair. Your weight should be over your heels, not in your toes. At the same time position a treat above your dog’s nose as you sit in the imaginary chair. Slowly bring the treat upward by pushing the weight in your heels and slowly stand while angling the treat slightly to the rear of your dogs head. Lure your dog to bring the front feet off the floor and sit on the back legs only. Reward your dog the moment the feet leave the floor. Build distance and time your dog can bring the front paws off the ground by luring with a healthy treat. The slower you both can move from squat to stand the more strength you will build. Repeat 10-12 times and increase over time.
8. Hill/Stair Climbs – Increases Strength, Stamina for Front and Hind Legs: Start with small hills/stairs to build up to longer and steeper hills/stairs as you and your dog gain strength. At the top turn around and go back down. Adding one legged squats on the uphill take is a great way to work your legs more. Repeat.
9. High Five – Strengthens and Stretches Rear Legs: From dogs sitting position grab one front paw and lift up to get full extension, show the dog with your hand where you want placement. Encourage with a healthy treat. Repeat other side.
10. Dance – Strengthens and Stretches Rear Legs and Core. Turn some tunes on and invite your dog to put his/her front paws on your chest or in your hands and walk forward and back, side to side then jump around to the beat.
Cool Down for Dogs and Their People:
Give you and your dog a chance to cool down after any activity to prevent injury and reduce soreness. It is a good transition to let your dog know you are done. Finish with a brisk belly rub and a calming massage while you also stretch and bring your heart rate down.