The new year is here—aka resolution season—and getting fit usually tops the list of New Year’s pledges. Studies show it’s easier to succeed when you have a workout partner, and what better workout buddy than your dog?
From yoga to kayaking, there are plenty of fun ways to get in shape with your pet. We talked to fitness trainer and founder of Leash Your Fitness, Dawn Celapino, for great tips on exercising with your dog, sample workouts, and more.
Workouts for You and Your Dog
You may think walking or running are the only types of exercise you can do with your dog, but there are many other options. With classes like “Bonding with Bootcamp” and “Butts and Guts With Your Mutt,” Celapino’s unique fitness concept incorporates a full-body workout for you with obedience training for your dog.
“Walking your dog is fine, but you’re not getting balance work and you’re not building muscle,” Celapino says. “Our classes are a complete workout for the person and work time for the dogs—I want the dogs to be focusing on their parents and on the task at hand.”
Celapino is a certified personal trainer who leads pet parents through a variety of exercises, including cardio, strength training, and stability moves. Dogs are required to stay leashed with their owners throughout the class and will go through a variety of activities, from walking or running to sit/stays to agility exercises.
“To make them stop running and be in a sit, that’s harder for them mentally because they’re sitting there thinking ‘I want to go!” Celapino explains. “That’s the obedience part—teaching them they are not going to sit there for long but right now, they need to sit before we’ll do something else.”
Celapino thinks our dogs provide an added motivation to push through a tough workout.
“I had a woman in her 60s who felt like she couldn’t keep up in class,” Celapino says. “But her dog loved it so much, she came back and now she’s teaching classes for me!”
- Start with a 2-3 minute walk to keep your dog moving
- 10 push-ups on a picnic table or on the ground with your dog in a sit
- 30-second walk followed by a 10-second sprint, then another 30-second walk
- 30-second plank with your dog laying down
- 20-30 walking lunges with your dog in a heel
- Repeat 3-5 times
It isn’t as ridiculous as it might sound! In fact, it comes naturally to our dogs, who often stretch it out in their namesake pose, downward dog. But dog yoga isn’t about the moves.
“They are not doing poses with you, it’s about them reading your energy and staying calm,” Celapino explains. “Everyone stays calm—there’s no talking and no treats.”
Celapino has six years of experience leading dog yoga classes, which she says are a great bonding activity. She even led the largest dog yoga class ever, a 40-minute class with 265 pooches—which may end up being the Guinness World Record (the event is in review).
“The dogs can’t do that for hours on end, but as long as everyone stays calm, the dogs are calm,” Celapino says. “All of our classes are like that.”
Outdoor Sports With Your Dog
It doesn’t stop at yoga—you can enjoy all the great outdoors offers with your dog. Some of the activities you can enjoy together are:
It’s important to make sure your dog is well-trained for some of these activities. Your dog needs to be calm and non-reactive to make these outings a success.
“Putting your dog in these different scenarios, everything is new,” Celapino explains. “They have to figure out each place we go, this is going to be okay.”
Basic obedience is critical—at a minimum, your dog needs to know and be reliable with heel, come, and leave it.
“He should be comfortable around people as well,” Demling says. “This will ensure his exercise routine is fun and not stressful for you, your dog, and everyone around you.”
Dogs Need Exercise, Too!
If you can’t muster the energy to get off the couch and get to the gym, those big brown eyes begging for some physical activity may be all the motivation you need. It’s also easier to make friends with your fur buddy in tow.
“Nobody likes to walk into the gym or into a class where everybody knows each other and nobody knows them,” Celapino explains. “Dogs are the icebreaker—we all love dogs and we have that in common.”
And dogs need exercise, too!
The founder of Pawtopia Dog Training, Colleen Demling, explains that it has to do with their biology. “Dogs aren’t meant for the sedentary life most of us currently live,” she says. “Their ancestors often roamed for miles and miles every day, so their bodies are built for way more than a casual walk around the block.”
Regular exercise not only keeps your dog healthy, but it can also dramatically reduce problem behaviors such as barking, jumping, and chewing.
“This applies to small dogs, too!” Demling adds. “Just because they are little doesn’t mean they don’t need daily exercise outside the house.”
Demling recommends 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day, but suggests mixing it up.
“Would you get bored if you did the same workout at the gym every single day?” Demling asks. “Your dog feels the same! If he goes on the same walk every day, things start to become boring. He is no longer intrigued by the smells and things he sees because he has seen it 1,000 times before. He is missing out on critical mental stimulation that many dogs gain from walks.”
Shake up your routine at least once a week, whether it’s a new route or a new exercise regimen like classes. But remember to consult your vet to figure out what’s best for your dog.
“No one form of workout is right for every dog, so talk to your veterinarian before starting their exercise program,” Demling adds. “Make sure your vet educates you on the signs of exhaustion or overheating.”
Some signs of heat exhaustion include:
- Panting excessively
- Tongue or gums turning red
- He can’t keep up or lies listlessly
If your dog exhibits any of these signs, stop exercising and seek immediate veterinary care.
The Bottom Line
Exercise is good for humans and dogs alike. Whether you’re just starting a fitness program or looking for ways to mix up your workouts, try exercising with your dog. When you find ways to get fit with your pet, you both reap the benefits. Plus, your bond will only get stronger!