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Exercising With Your Canine Pal

Exercise is wonderful for both humans and their dog companions, so why not do it together? Here are some tips to get started.

Last week our 12 year old coon hound mix, Maximus, passed away. His departure has been difficult for our family, but it also helped us recall the many wonderful memories that involved our furry family member. As so many of those memories involved activity and the outdoors, I thought it only fitting to dedicate this blog post to my original exercise partner. Max was our running buddy, rock climbing anchor, mountain cycling pacer, hiking partner, and a professional snowball catcher. This entry is for those dog owners, (or future dog companions) out there who exercise with their pets, or would like to start doing so. I’ve put together a little list of tips to optimize the exercise experience for you and your dog.

1. Account for your dog’s age. If you plan to go out for long runs, give your puppy’s bones a chance to mature as doing too much too soon can be painful for them. Ask your vet when would be a good age for your individual dog to start logging structured miles. As dogs age, (or decrease activity) their health is impacted much the same as humans. Be sure their joints are up for the type of activity that you’re doing and consider that when choosing the volume and intensity of the workout. Older dogs may need a slower progression and more recovery time.

2. Follow the rule of progression. If your dog is unaccustomed to activity, start off nice and easy, just as humans should! Give your dog’s heart, lungs, muscles, and joints a chance to acclimate to new activity levels and slowly increase with progressions in duration and/or intensity. Incorporating rest or active recovery days (i.e. a casual walk) in the beginning would be helpful.

3. Consider your dog’s breed. Some breeds, (like our hound dog) are wonderful pacers and built for distance but others, (like our lab/border collie mix) do better with short bursts of faster paces (great for interval training). Factor in their body’s shape and size. If you have a smaller dog that was not originally bred for endurance, consider how many strides they have take to match yours!

4. Hydrate your canine! Make sure your dog is drinking, before her tongue is hanging all the way to the ground. Give your dog small drinks throughout the workout. Either map out your water sources or carry a water bottle and collapsible bowl. If you have a camelbak you can press the nozzle to create a stream like a water fountain and train your dog to lap it up like ours does!

Here are some fun links for other ideas and tips:

I hope to never stop thinking of Maximus when I’m out on a run as I do now. Here’s to you, our wonderful and faithful friend!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Core Club & 24/7 Gym - Cheryl Nugent Salva January 29, 2013 at 07:59 PM
Sorry to hear about your loss, my dog also just passed away. It does leave an empty place in your heart. I enjoyed reading your Blog! Cheryl
Elaine January 29, 2013 at 10:25 PM
Cheryl, sorry for your loss. Max will always be with you. You make some very good pointshere, I would like to add a couple such as: * some dogs are just not suited to run with you - giant and toy breeds are not suited for running and dogs with short snouts are probably not suitable running companions either * never tie your dog to your bicycle handlebars - I don't even think I should actually say why, but have actually seen people do this a number of times
Dr Chris Chase January 29, 2013 at 10:45 PM
I like point two - thanks for the reminder.
Stephen Stern January 30, 2013 at 01:30 AM
Very good point made under number 2 Christine. Most people and pets for that matter suffer from the terrible 2's when they begin an exercise program. They do too much, too soon, with too little rest in between, leading to fatigue, injury and quitting.
Stephanie Williams, CPDT-KA March 27, 2013 at 03:39 PM
Christine, I'm so sorry for your loss. There's no way to prepare for the loss of a beloved pet. I really love this blog post. I'm always encouraging my clients to get out and exercise with their dogs. It's great for relationship building as well as health. This post is a well-written, easy to understand, guide for people to get started. I think folks should keep in mind that exercise with your dog doesn't have to be limited to sustained activities like running, which as someone pointed out is not suitable for every dog. As you said, other outdoor activities like hiking or snowball chasing are great to do as well. In addition, just running around in the back yard and playing with your dog can be great exercise. There are also wonderful canine sports, such as agility, that are challenging for dogs and handlers as well as appropriate for dogs of all sizes. (Yes, there's teacup agility, as well as courses for older dogs.)

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