When it comes to getting your lazy dog to become more active, or helping your overweight dog shed a few pounds, exercise plays an integral role.
Just like with humans, healthy eating paired with a consistent exercise regime is the best way to achieve results. And sometimes, short walks down the same path every day don’t always cut it. If you want to effectively transition your dog from couch potato to active and energetic, a little extra attention and creativity may be required.
According to certified canine fitness trainer Lisa Blanchard, BA, LVT, CMT, CCRP, CCFT, FP-MTI, there are five different aspects involved when it comes to your pup’s fitness: strength, balance, cardio, flexibility and mental fitness. Besides just making sure your dog takes a walk daily, a more dynamic approach should be taken to truly improve your dog’s overall fitness level. “You get stronger by having a well-rounded program as opposed to one type of exercise,” she says.
For some new ways to get your lazy dog off the couch, try our 1-week workout plan. By following these suggestions, your pup will be well on his way to becoming a more lively and peppy companion.
You should ensure that your dog’s tissues and muscles are warmed up before a workout. This is especially important before any type of rigorous exercise in order to prevent injury, improve body awareness and improve blood flow. Blanchard recommends a 5-10-minute walk that slowly escalates to a trot.
The goal here is to get your lazy dog off the couch. Depending on how deconditioned your dog is, you may start with having him follow you down the driveway to the mailbox, or taking him to the backyard for a quick game of fetch. The Kurgo Backyard Birdie is great for fetch, and will have your pup dashing off to catch this spinning chew toy.
Bring your dog to the dog park to let him walk or run around at his discretion. You will quickly be able to assess his abilities and fondness for pet exercises by observing his behavior. Make sure your dog is properly hydrated, and keep in mind proper dog park etiquette to make the visit go as smoothly as possible. A 20-30-minute visit should be sufficient time for ample exercise and stimulating socialization.
On the third day, try out a game that makes your dog work for his meals. This not only will have him consuming his food more thoughtfully, it also will help improve his mental fitness. “Dogs love to use their nose,” Blanchard says. “They’re very scent-oriented.”
An easy way to make the most out of your dog’s powerful olfactory sensors is to hide his food throughout the house. This game will also help with an overweight dog that needs help with weight loss, as it gets them up and moving. Just be sure to use food from one of their meals so they are not consuming extra calories. To initiate the hunt, place a few morsels of dog food or treats out in plain sight, followed by a few slightly hidden nearby. After your dog catches on, place some food in the corner of the house, others behind a door. Your dog will start to sniff out their food and will make it a habit depending on how often you do this.
Later in the day, go on your dog’s normal walk, but engage him in various balance-intensive activities. If available, have him walk on concrete parking blocks, curbs or logs as much as possible during your walk. Though this doesn’t seem like the typical pet exercise, you will be sharpening his balance and coordination skills, which is just as important. If able, have your dog run in short intervals to get his heart rate up and increase his cardiovascular fitness.
If your dog is keen on basic training commands, spend your time practicing these tricks repeatedly today. Focus on your pet’s body movements to ensure he is in good form. “As long as it’s in good form, it can be an exercise,” says Blanchard.
Early in the evening, have your dog walk slowly, controlling his pace as he goes up and down a flight of stairs 6-8 times. Walking in a slow and controlled manner requires the dog to engage more muscles and think about how he is using his body instead of just using momentum to power himself up the stairs. Make sure you reward him with healthy treats and attention.
Bring your furry companion to a dog-friendly beach for some fetch on the shoreline and a swim in the ocean. The Chuckit! Classic Ball Launcher is a fun item to pack, as it can throw a tennis ball three times farther than normal for the ultimate game of fetch. After getting your dog’s heart rate up, jump in the water with him and guide him as he performs the doggie paddle for at least 5 minutes. For some tips on making the most of your beach trip with your pup, check out some pointers here. If your dog is not able to swim, take advantage of the sand by walking on the shoreline. If you have ever tried to walk in sand, you understand that it is much more challenging and is a really great workout!
Engage your dog in a game of tug of war with the KONG Ballistic Tug dog toy. Not only is this an intense pet exercise for your dog, but it will also improve his mental fitness and redirect any destructive chewing tendencies he may have. During the game, Blanchard advises, make sure that your dog is doing all the pulling, and none is coming from your end. Also, when tugging, the dog’s neck and back should be in line in order to protect the spine.
If your dog is able, go on a run with your dog. This will give you the opportunity to get some exercise in for yourself while keeping your dog in shape. The PetSafe Hands Free Dog Leash is a great tool to use when you want to run with your dog and keep your hands free. To increase your dog’s fitness, walk or run on different, more challenging surfaces like tall grass or sand as often as you can.
In the following week, repeat the more strenuous pet exercises, increasing the intensity or length of each session. Spend more time swimming, or add a few more reps to climbing up the stairs, for example. Soon enough, your once overweight dog will begin to gain more energy and may start to shed some extra weight.
It’s important to stay consistent during any exercise regime so you don’t lose any results you’ve worked so hard to achieve. If you simply don’t have the time to spend getting your dog in shape, the most important thing is to just get your dog moving, says Blanchard.