8 Fun Ways To Exercise Your Dog

By Kate Hendricks | Pets

Jan 29

Adding a dog to the family is a huge commitment. If you already own one, you’ll know that exercise is a large part of taking care of your fur baby. You’ll also know that when they don’t get enough physical activity they can become quite naughty, and sometimes destructive.

They can also become overweight, which can have a severe effect on their health. According to a study done by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 54% of dogs in the USA are overweight or obese. This is a seriously high percentage and a real worry for the well being of those animals.

1. Walking

A simple lead walk around your neigborhood is a great way to allow your dog to meet other people and animals and get an opportunity to sniff things along the way. If you can, get your dog used to lead work while they are still young, teach them to heal and to not get distracted by passing bikes or joggers. Always carry treats with you and use every opportunity to train. Make sure you have the correct collar, lead and harness to walk your dog, it will make all the difference when you are trying to control your pet. Although using a no pull harness won’t magically make your dog heal, it will really help you to not lose control and train them to walk nicely.

2. Running

If you are a keen runner (or a wannabe runner!) why not train alongside your pup? Depending on the breed, you might find that running alongside your dog is the perfect way to keep you both fit. Start up slowly, even if you are fit enough to run forever, your dog might not be. It is recommended to wait until your puppy is at least 12 months old before running with them, older for larger breed dogs, to avoid any injury to their joints while they are still growing. Double check with your vet before starting any regular running program with your dog (and perhaps your own doctor). A hands free dog running leash is the perfect way to run with your dog, most are made from a bungee cord material enabling your pup to run ahead without pulling on you.

3. Cycling

Bike riding with your dog is a really fun way to exercise together. As with running, make sure your dog is up to the exercise levels and slowly build up their fitness levels. Stop frequently and offer them water and make sure they are not too tired out. You’ll also need to ensure that your pup can cope with running along side a bike and won’t try to dart under the wheels. Don’t attempt to cycle with the leash tied to your handlebars or around the saddle. This way of riding with your dog has the potential to end really badly. Thankfully there are plenty of dog bike attachments that you can use to ride safely together.

4. Swimming

Dog SwimmingSwimming is the perfect way to exercise your dog without putting any pressure on their joints. But don’t assume that every dog can naturally swim! Some will need to be taught, and may even need a dog lifejacket. You can take your dog swimming in a local lake, swimming pool, or even the sea. Always be aware of tides and currents, as well as how deep a swimming area can get. If your dog likes to slurp water from any place he or she can, try to stop them drinking swimming pool water as it is usually high in chlorine and other chemicals. Likewise, don’t let them gulp down the sea water as it could make them quite sick and require medical attention.

Never leave your dog alone when swimming – even if they seem like a strong swimmer. If they are in a swimming pool make sure they can easily get out via some steps, or place some portable dog steps, or ramp inside. Dogs can tire quickly when swimming, much more so than when running.

5. Throwing A Ball

If you’re not in the mood for much exercise yourself, throwing a ball for your dog is a great way to tire them out. If your ball throwing skills aren’t up to much you might want to consider an automatic dog ball launcher or manual thrower. Some dogs are obsessive ball chasers so make sure you keep an eye on when they are getting too tired. They likely won’t stop until you do!

6. Agility/Fly Ball

Agility or fly ball is a really fun way to exercise your dog and improve your bonding with them. You can either go to an organised class, and perhaps take part in competitions, or just stick to working with your dog in the back yard. There are plenty of different types of agility equipment that you can buy for home use, including tunnels and jumps.

7. Hiking With Your Dog

Dog HikingIf you love to be outdoors hiking, why not include your dog? First of all you’ll need to check with your vet that your dog is fit enough to go hiking and if they need any additional vaccinations. Plan ahead by researching which trails allow dogs on them. Most will require that they are kept on a leash, so you might want to use an extendable lead or a hands free leash. Pack according to the weather with plenty of water and perhaps a mini first aid kit for both your and your dog. If your dog is not used to off road conditions you might need to introduce them to dog shoes to help protect their feet.

A dog backpack is ideal for hiking. You can store some of their essentials within it and give them a real sense of purpose as they help to carry some of the lighter items.

8. Doggy Treadmills

There are many reasons why you might need to use a dog treadmill rather than exercising your hound outside. Perhaps your dog is recovering from surgery or an injury and need to do a little rehab work. Or maybe the weather is too hot, or cold, for you to be outside. Whatever the reason, a dog treadmill can be a really useful piece of equipment to help with your pet’s fitness requirements.

Other Exercise Considerations

How Much Exercise Does My Dog Need A Day?

If you are still in the research phase of deciding on whether you should get a dog, or what breed, make sure you do your homework around how much exercise your dog will need. This varies greatly between breeds and should be a factor when deciding which dog is best for your lifestyle.

Working dogs, as well as hunting and herding breeds, will need the most exercise, with some types requiring around 2 hours of physical activity a day.

Find out which dog might be better suited to your lifestyle with this handy quiz from Dogtime.

Is It Possible To Over Exercise A Dog?

Yes it is. This is especially true when your dog is still a puppy. The general guidelines are to only walk your puppy for 5 minutes for every month of their age. So a 5 month old puppy should be exercised 25 minutes a day, a 6 month for 30 minutes etc. The reason for this is because of their growing bones, over exercising them can but stress on their joints and cause problems later on. It might feel impossible to cope with the energy levels of a puppy but consider alternatives such as training and indoor play that doesn’t involve too much jumping about.

But what about adult dogs, can they be exercised too much? Yes they can. Again, it depends very much on the breed and age. For example, a dachshund won’t have the same exercise needs as a German shepherd.

Signs that you have overdone it with physical activity might include sore paws or more obvious to spot, unusually long extended periods of exhaustion when you return.

When Shouldn’t You Exercise Your Dog

If your dog is injured, sick or recovering from an operation, you should take the advice of your vet. They might need to be kept house bound for a time, or kept on a lead to prevent over zealous activity. Likewise, if the temperature outside is too high, don’t walk your dog, unless it’s early in the morning, or late at night. Dogs can easily suffer with heatstroke and dehydration. If they really need to run off some steam find a shady area, or take them somewhere they can swim to cool down.

What To Do When You Can’t Exercise Your Dog

If you work full time you’ll need to find someone to come in and walk your dog during the day time so that they are not left alone for too long. There are plenty of local dog walkers, as well as doggy day care centers. Alternatively you might have a friend or neighbour who can come and help out. Whichever you decide upon make sure you have taken the time to introduce your dog to their walker and asked lots of questions about where they will be walked, how many other dogs will be there, as well as checking they have adequate insurance.

Even if you don’t work full time it is useful to have a support network of people to help out in a time of need. There might be occasions when you get sick or you have to go away.

Don’t Forget About Mental Exercise Too

This is just as important as physical activity. Just like us, a dog needs to use their brain to keep them healthy and happy. Whereas we can’t give them the latest crossword to complete, we can provide them with the mental stimulation to keep them from getting bored. A bored dog can become a troublesome dog. Ideas to keep your pup’s brain ticking over include;

  • Scent work. This can be as simple as hiding pieces of cheese (or your pet’s favorite treat) around the house or garden and sending them off to find it. Start by placing it in an easy to find spot and tell them to ‘find it’ and let them sniff about for it. As they get better at it, gradually hide treats in more difficult to find places and really make them work for it.
  • A puzzle ball or similar toy can make your dog work for their food, and in turn exercise their brain.
  • Agility work not only exercises the dog’s body, but also their mind. Agility work will greatly improve the relationship between owner and pet, as well as form a strong bond.
  • Training and trick work will get your four legged pal working their brain. Even just simple sit, down and wait work will get them thinking. If possible join a local class and get advice from professional trainers.