Erica C. Boling, PhD
Northeast K9 Conditioning
Whether we’re dealing with a hectic work week or constant interruptions to our daily activities, we can always use some extra motivation and creative tips for getting more active with our dogs!! If you read one of our latest blogs, Are You Killing Your Dog with Kindness?, you know that more than half the pet dog population in the USA is overweight and can suffer many negative health consequences because of this. If we want to keep our dogs fit, happy and healthy, we need to keep them active!
Getting more fit and active with our dogs doesn’t necessarily mean adding hours of exercise to our weekly routine. The most important thing is to keep things creative and fun so that we stay motivated to keep active throughout the entire year! Below are some of my favorite ways to keep active with my dogs and stay motivated. Be sure to try them out!
Mix Things Up
Do you already have a regular route that you like to walk with your dog every day? Do you have a favorite path that you like to hike on the weekends? One of the easiest ways to increase activity for your dog is to change what you are already doing in one easy way. Simply increase the frequency, intensity or duration of your current activity. It’s as simple as that! Don’t change all three at the same time. Just pick one variable to change and have fun!
Do you normally walk an easy route around the neighborhood block? Add some hills (or even stairs) to the mix to increase intensity! Do you normally exercise your dog twice per week? Change the frequency by adding a third day. Want to increase the duration of your dog’s daily exercise? Add an extra five or ten minutes of playtime in the backyard. When making changes, be sure to gradually increase your dog’s activity level over time. You don’t want to increase activity by doing too much too soon and putting your dog at risk for injury.
I have many friends doing canine biathlons with their dogs, and they just LOVE them! Not only are they doing fun activities with their dogs, working together as a team really increases their bond. There’s no reason why you can’t set up your own mini obstacle course in the backyard (or even in the house) and take your dog through it!
Have your dog crawl forward and backwards under chairs, walk through the rungs of a ladder placed on the ground, balance on a narrow board raised just a few inches off the floor or even carefully step and balance all four feet into a small cardboard box. Activities like these help strengthen core muscles along with the shoulders and hindquarters. They also help develop balance and body awareness! Experiencing bad weather and can’t get outdoors? You can still be creative and do some fun obstacles in the house! (I do a lot of these activities with my dog in my living room!)
This is one of my favorite things to do with my dog! Canicross is a popular dryland mushing sport in a number of European countries and is beginning to gain popularity here in the USA. It’s advertised as cross country running with your dog, but you can do it walking (and in the city) too! The difference between canicross and taking your dog for a regular walk or run is that your dog wears a harness specifically designed for pulling (like a sled dog harness). The harness is attached with a bungee cord or elastic line that connects to a special belt that you wear around your waist.
The best thing about canicross is that you and your dog get to exercise together! You combine cardio exercise with strength training, and you can run (or walk) faster because your dog is allowed to pull you!
What I also love about canicross is that having a line with some elasticity reduces the shock to both you and your dog while your dog is pulling. Wearing a special canicross belt around your waist keeps the pressure low on your hips and protects your lower back. Having your dog attached to your waist frees up your hands, and you feel more balanced while walking or running. If you like walking or jogging with your dog, you have to try canicross! There is nothing better than getting more fit and active with your canine workout buddy by your side! While increasing the bond between you and your dog, you are also both getting healthier and more fit together! As an added bonus, you’ll never have to exercise alone!
Do you have a competitive personality or need a little boost of motivation to get out and get active? Try using an activity tracker on your dog to document activity level across a number of days or even weeks! With a simple tool like BabelBark’s health monitor, you can easily track and compare your dog’s activity level on your phone. I like to compare the daily and weekly graphs that it creates to see how my dog’s activity compares over time. I find this a great way to celebrate our fitness success or to get a boost of motivation when I see activity level dropping. BabelBark’s app even has a journal tool where you can write down and plan your weekly goals and activities. I find setting and documenting weekly fitness goals keep me committed to a healthier lifestyle for both my dog and me! Try setting some new goals for the upcoming week and be sure to celebrate your successes!
Non-Stop Dogwear makes harnesses and running belts specifically designed for canicross. To learn more about canicross-specific equipment, visit https://www.shopnonstopdogwear.com/.