Living an active lifestyle is challenging, especially in a culture of desk jobs, busy schedules, and trying to make time for families and pets. An obvious, but often overlooked, solution to meeting your exercise goals is to walk or run with your dog. Not only is this a fun and healthy solution to finding time to exercise, but it also saves time, since you can exercise both yourself and your dog at the same time. You can even make it a family affair if you want to get everyone exercising and spending time together. However you choose to do it, here are some tips for beginning a regular routine of walking or running with your dog.
Before you begin, assess your own fitness level as well as your pets’ own safety. Just as you should always check with your own doctor before you begin an exercise regimen, have your vet give your dog the go-ahead before the two of you hit the trails together. Too much pounding can be bad for the joints of growing puppies, older dogs, or dogs with certain health problems, so be sure to let your veterinarian know exactly how much exercise you plan to do with your pet. Also keep your pet’s energy level in mind. You may not get a challenging workout walking an older dog who can’t travel too far, or one who tends to tire easily. If this is the case, you’ll want to take your dog on shorter jaunts while supplementing your own exercise regimen with longer, solo workouts. On the other hand, if you have an active, healthy dog and you are out of shape, you may find yourself exhausted by trying to exercise with your dog at first. Know that it’s okay if your fitness levels don’t match up right away, but plan accordingly so that your exercise plans meet both your needs and those of your dog.
Another prerequisite for walking or running with your pet is having him properly trained to walk on a leash. This sounds obvious enough, but don’t underestimate how frustrating and even dangerous daily exercise can become if your dog doesn’t listen to you. Of course, you’ll need to make sure your dog can walk nicely on the leash without pulling, and he’ll also need to be able to encounter human and canine passersby without jumping and barking. Perhaps most important of all, he’ll need to be able to reliably stop and come back to you on command, even without a leash. His ability to respond to basic commands could be vital in the event that he should get away from you on a walk or run. If it’s been a while since you last walked your dog, take some practice walks in a safe area to evaluate his manners. If needed, consider brushing up both your training skills and his on-leash etiquette by taking him to an obedience training class. The bottom line is that you should feel confident that you’ll be able to control your dog in any foreseeable situation before you take him out in a public place.
When it’s finally time to start exercising, remember to do so safely and lawfully. Keep your dog on a leash at all times, even if you think he’s trained well enough to stay by your side without one. It’s the law to do so in most places, and you can never know when your dog, no matter how well trained, might decide to ignore or fail to hear your commands in a potentially dangerous situation. Another common-sense safety tip is to avoid high-traffic areas and busy intersections. Aim to walk or run with your dog in quiet neighborhoods, parks, or public trails, where it will be safer and quieter. Wherever you decide to exercise, verify in advance that dogs are allowed, and have the common courtesy to clean up after your pet. Inexpensive doggie-bag dispensers that attach to leashes or belt loops are available at most major pet stores, making being prepared easy. Also remember to bring a supply of water for both yourself and your dog. Pet stores offer a variety of on-the-go options for carrying water, from pet water bottles that attach to small drinking basins to soft, collapsible drinking bowls you can fill up at a drinking fountain or with your own water bottle.
Finally, be sure to regularly monitor your dog’s condition to make sure he’s still healthy enough to exercise. Be sure to run your hands down your dog’s legs and feet after each exercise session, feeling for any abnormal lumps or bumps and watching for signs of pain. Check his paw pads for raw areas and between his toes for twigs, dirt, or pebbles that could cause pain or discomfort when he walks. You should also keep an eye out for any abnormalities in your pet’s gait, both while you’re exercising and for a day or two afterward. Even a slight limp could be a sign of soreness or injury. If you encounter anything that doesn’t look normal or healthy, be sure to have your veterinarian evaluate the problem.
Exercising doesn’t have to be a chore, especially when it’s done with your canine companion. If you follow these tips, soon both you and your dog will start looking forward to your fun and rewarding workouts.