Man’s best friend is also man’s best workout buddy! According to our research, 73% of dog owners think their four-legged friends make great workout companions and help to keep them motivated.
This ulti-mutt workout guide is packed with ideas and inspiration – whether you’re looking for some fun new exercises to try at home, or tips to keep your pet entertained on a rainy day. Read on to discover moves for building strength, balance and cardio, and don’t fear, we’ve included plenty of time for toys and treats for your four-legged friend!
As well as keeping you both active, exercising with your dog means spending quality time together – which they are sure to love. Remember, all dogs are unique and their exercise needs vary. Make sure you always have plenty of fresh water available and please consult your GP and vet before embarking on a new exercise regime for yourself and your pooch.
Squat & Paw
Our single favourite exercise is a simple squat with your dog—it’s so easy to do at home and you’ll be teaching your dog a fun new trick!
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and lower your hips, keeping your weight in the heels and your chest up. Your knees should not go past your toes when you look down.
- To include your dog, alternate which hand goes forward on each rep and ask your pooch for ‘paw’.
- Repeat. (Who will tire out first? Hint – probably you!)
- You can use a treat if your dog needs more than just a verbal cue.
Did you know? Squats work muscles in the lower body (glutes, quads, hamstrings, adductor, hip flexors, and calves) as well as the upper body (shoulders, arms, chest, and back)—all of which support everyday activities like walking, climbing stairs, bending, and carrying heavy items. Squats also improve flexibility and strengthen your core, which supports your back.
Wag & Weave
Your dog might not be destined for Crufts, but some light agility training can be a great challenge for their mind and body.
- Lay down some cones (or simply a dog-safe household item, such as cushions or books) in a line.
- Depending on your dog’s level of training, use a treat, toy or verbal instructions to encourage them to follow you walking around the cones.
- Make sure to reward them with lots of affection (or a healthy treat!) when you reach the end.
Eventually, you can increase the pace to improve endurance and coordination for both you and your dog.
Twist & Treat
An important step in giving your dog a great all-round workout is to train their brain! Engage your dog by letting them see a toy, then enclose it in your hands.
- Stand with feet hip-width apart and step back into a reverse lunge.
- Twist your torso in the opposite direction on each rep with your hands holding the toy clasped in front of you, so your dog moves from side to side as you rotate.
- Reward your dog often with lots of love or a treat.
Another option is to play fetch (if you have the space!) as you complete your reps.
Tug of War
This is a great one to reinforce the human-canine bond, as well as have some fun with your four-legged friend!
- Using your dog’s favourite tug of war toy, hold onto one end of the toy.
- Drop down into a squat whilst your dog takes the other end in their mouth.
Make sure you take breaks so not to over-excite your dog and try not to get too competitive – letting them win is rewarding and can build their confidence. Avoid this move if your dog has any dental concerns.
Lunge & Balance
This is a great exercise to strengthen the muscles in your legs, whilst stimulating and tiring your dog out as you task them with following your directions. Make sure you are telling your pup how good they are doing when they listen to your direction to sit, lay down, and stay. You may need a little more space for this one so make sure you move any furniture out the way.
- Start with a 2-3 minute jog on the spot to get you and your dog moving
- Do a static lunge and ask your dog to sit, hold for ten seconds. TIP: Make sure your knee is line with your ankle and not over your toes. And your weight should be in your front heel.
- Walk forward a few paces and then lunge with the other leg, asking your dog to sit again. Hold for ten seconds. Keep this going for 10-15 minutes.
- Stand on your left leg and tell your dog to lay down.
- Reach down and pet your dog, continuing to stand on your left leg.
- Come back up to your starting position and then reach down five more times.
- Repeat with your right leg.
Did you know? When you’re balancing, you’re improving your stabiliser muscles that often go unused. Balance training has many benefits including improved body awareness, coordination, and reaction time—and all these things work together to decrease your chances of injury from falling.
Making Fetch Happen
For dogs with great recall, try this move to get you active too! Throw a ball or toy for your dog to fetch, then instead of standing waiting, Burpee as many times as you can until your dog returns. This one is great if you have a long corridor, otherwise the living room is just fine.
For the burpees:
- Bend your knees and place your hands on the floor.
- Kick your legs out behind you and lower your entire body down to the floor, bending your elbows.
- Push your body back up from the floor and jump your legs in. Jump straight up in the air, and repeat!
Raising the Bar
Hopping over hurdles is a fun activity to try with your dog either indoors or outdoors, and provides you both with a great cardio workout!
- Set up your dog hurdles at home. There are a range of dog hurdles available to buy, but as a first step you can use household items, such as cushions, to create a mini obstacle course.
- Hop over the jumps and lead your dog with a toy, treat or verbal cue.
- You can make the hurdles higher once your dog starts to get the hang of things.
Remember to always take your dog’s size into account, and build a height-appropriate course.
A great exercise for engaging your core, and your dog!
- Start lying down on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the ground.
- Hold your dog’s favourite toy in both hands clasped in front of you – engage your dog by letting them see the toy, then do a half sit-up, stopping at the point where you can feel your abs engaging.
- Lift your feet off the ground to intensify the move!
- Twist your torso from side to side, pausing on each rep to encourage your dog to chase your hands or play fetch as you continue your reps.
Tip: Keep the movement slow and controlled, and don’t forget to reward your dog with lots of love between sets.
Plank & Pass
Start by picking up your dog’s favourite toy—they’ll be sure to be engaged straight away.
- Get yourself into a plank position holding the toy in your right hand. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart and your back & legs forming a straight line.
- Take your weight onto your left arm and extend your right arm out to the right, then across the front of your body to the left.
- Repeat five times with your right arm, then change sides.
- Keep your dog engaged so they chase the toy from side to side as you move. Make sure to reward your dog with ‘happy talk’ (or a treat!) between sets.
Did you know? Planks are not only one of the best core exercises (a strong core is important in providing support for your back), they target nearly every muscle in your body, and also strengthen your skeletal system.
End your workout with a little Doga (that’s yoga with your dog, for the uninitiated!). Take some time to sit together and pet your pooch, bringing down the energy after a fun workout together. When your dog is stretching out, do a Downward Dog with them – this yoga move is inspired by the way our canine companions stretch their bodies and gives us a full-body stretch. For a gentler version, try a Child’s Pose while your dog is lying on their front; enjoy this light stretch and a moment to connect.
- Child’s pose: Get on your knees and sit back on your heels, reaching your arms straight out in front of you.
- Down dog: On your hands and feet, push your hips back. You will feel a stretch in your calves and achilles. Meanwhile, let your dog interact with you. Have them sit or lay down when you transition back and forth between child’s pose and down dog.
Some tips to incorporate your dog into your yoga practice:
- Let your dog’s curiosity lead the way
- Smaller dogs can be lifted during poses like “Warrior I”
- Practice stretching alongside a larger dog
- Rest together naturally during quieter poses
This guide is intended for educational purposes and should not be considered a substitute for veterinary or personal training advice. There are many factors not considered in this guide that may affect which exercises are suitable for your dog, such as; breed, metabolism, spayed / neutered status, personality, orthopaedic status and other medical conditions. If you are unsure, consult your vet. Rover.com strongly recommends that you consult with your GP before beginning any exercise program. You should be in good physical condition and be able to participate in the exercises.