Many people aim to start exercising more often at the beginning of the year, but few maintain their New Year’s resolution longer than a couple of weeks. It takes consistency to turn an activity into a habit, so why not get your best furry friend involved to help you stay motivated? Having an exercise partner can dramatically increase your chances of sustaining your goals. Here’s how to get started with your dog on an exercise regimen:
Start slowly and build up to avoid injuries. If your dog is new to exercising, think of it like you would think of training for a 5k as a human. You wouldn’t wake up one morning and be able to run three miles, and neither can your dog. When you first start training with your dog, start with walking. Once you’ve hit a distance that you’re satisfied with, start speeding up the walk. If you notice Fido (or you!) having any stiffness in the days following exercise, you went too far, too fast. Slow it down, and build up to your desired level.
Be sure to warm up and cool down. The best way to avoid an injury is by doing a proper warm up. If you plan on jogging, start with a brisk walk to get the muscles warm, and be sure to spend the same amount of time cooling down afterward to minimize soreness and stiffness. Take breaks in between workout days to allow time to recover and if you have an extremely active day, scale back the next day to allow muscles to heal.
Be careful with aging pets. There are a few things you can do to make exercising easier on older animals. For example, after throwing a ball for your dog to fetch, hold the dog back until the ball stops moving. It reduces the amount of jumping and lunging, protecting the joints and allowing an older dog to enjoy the game.
Important factors to consider when exercising your dog:
How old is the dog? Despite their energy levels, puppies can’t run very far. Much like young kids won’t be running a marathon regardless of fitness level, puppies can’t run distances; they just aren’t ready. Senior dogs may also be unable to go very far or very fast, but, with your vet’s okay, they should still get some form of exercise daily.
Is the dog physically capable of the exercise program? Small dogs, or dogs with short legs won’t be able to do much more than a long walk. However, if you’ve got a medium-to-large sized athletic breed, like a retriever or border collie, you will likely tire before they do!
Speak to your veterinarian before beginning any new fitness regimen with your dog if you’re unsure of their capabilities, and of course, be vigilant in paying attention to your pooch to ensure they aren’t experiencing any distress or discomfort during or after your workouts. Also, be sure to protect your dog’s sensitive paws if walking on hot pavement, especially here in Florida. We have dog footwear available at Pets Plus, as well as harnesses, leashes, and other gear you will need for your new activity! Have fun!