Make a New Year’s Resolution for Better Fitness for You - and Your Dog!
By AKC GoodDog! Helpline Trainer Hilarie Erb
Have you ever made a resolution to start exercising? Of course you have! Are you one of the many people who found it difficult to stick with this resolution? Be honest.
It can be a hard resolution to keep. However, if you involve your dog, you’ll have a double incentive to stay motivated. Once you start including him, it will be the highlight of his day, and he will use his big sweet eyes to guilt you into getting off the couch. You don’t want to disappoint him!
Bowie, pictured above, trained with his owner Andrea Watson to complete a 5K run as a benefit for breast cancer research last summer. Setting a goal like that is a great way to get started on a fitness program for you and your canine buddy!
Before getting started, make sure that your dog is healthy. This might require a veterinary checkup. Your veterinarian can give you tips on how to get your dog started, but just as with humans, dogs should start slowly and build endurance over time. If your dog is overweight (ask your vet for an honest opinion), put a good nutrition plan into place as well.
A daily walk is an excellent habit to start. Is your dog a good walker or does she tug you along? She should know how to walk on a loose leash at your side. If she needs a little help with becoming a good walker, here’s how to teach her: www.akc.org/learn/akc-training/whos-walking-who-tips-to-teach-loose-leash-walking Combining training and exercise make both tasks fun.
After you have both built up some stamina, you might want to add jogging. Your dog will love this. Often, leash tugging is simply the result of a dog’s most comfortable pace being a little faster than his human’s most comfortable pace. Most dogs like to move along at a trot and unless your dog is very small, your walk isn’t quite that fast. Combining walking and jogging will help with loose-leash-walking (even if he’d prefer trotting, he still needs to go at your speed when asked) and will keep the outing more interesting.
Another great way for both of you to exercise is to teach him to trot along you as you ride a bicycle. If your dog has a lot of energy, this is an excellent way to meet his needs.
Start teaching your dog to bike with you on quiet streets or roads with little traffic. There are devices available for attaching a leash to a bike, or if you are a good rider you can hold the leash in your hand. Safety is the most important thing here. This will be more physically strenuous for your dog than for you, so if you are training for a triathlon, leave her home and then pick her up at the end for what will be a cool-down for you and a workout for her.
At first your dog may be a little nervous about the bicycle but if you make it fun by giving him delicious, high-value treats he will quickly associate it with having a good time. Don’t push him; let him get used to it slowly. Give plenty of warning before turns and don’t go too fast. Before you know it, you’ll have an avid biking buddy.
For training advice for your dog, consider enrolling in the AKC GoodDog! Helpline, a seven day a week telephone support system staffed by dog trainers at www.akcgooddoghelpline.org