In the depths of winter, we spend a lot more time indoors.
Unfortunately, less time outside usually means less activity, so it’s easy to put on the pounds — for us and our dogs.
Obesity isn’t just a human phenomenon — it’s also becoming common in our pets.
A 2017 survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention showed that 56% of dogs in the United States were overweight or obese.1
This means “more arthritis, high blood pressure, kidney disease and certain forms of cancer,” says APOP’s founder, Dr. Ernie Ward, DVM, but also “reduced quality of life and shorter life expectancy.”
So, what can we do to help?
Know How to Exercise Your Dog Anytime
Combined with giving the right diet, knowing how to exercise your dog — yes, even in the winter — is always a great key to fitness.
Providing your pet with regular physical activity can help reduce the risk of health problems as well as a host of behavioral issues, such as digging in the garbage or chewing on everything.
With a busy schedule of your own, it’s easy to put your dog’s exercise routine on the back burner.
However, with a few changes to your own routine, you can fit in the exercise your dog needs and help them get back on track.
Does Your Dog Get Enough Exercise?
You might think your dog gets plenty of exercise because you give them regular access to your yard — but do they really get enough exercise?
Pay attention to your dog’s activity next time they go outside:
- Are they running around or playing actively the whole time?
- Or do they just spend most of the time wandering around or waiting for you to let them back inside?
6 Exercises for Your Dog (And for You)
The exercises listed below are sure to keep your dog happy and healthy. Just check with your veterinarian before changing your dog’s exercise habits and diet.
1. Walking or Jogging With Your Dog
Taking the dog for a walk is probably the first thing that comes to mind.
If you live in a place where you can spend time outside year round … well, we’re jealous. Not just because of the weather but also because this means you can take your dog outside for walks or jogs regularly.
If you live in a snowy place but can still manage walks with your dog semi-regularly, take advantage of it!
Super cold out? See our companion article “Winter Dog Walking Tips: Protect Your Dog in Bone-Chilling Weather.”
And if you’re fortunate enough to live near a beach, head there for your daily walk. Walking in the sand provides resistance that makes your muscles work harder, so you, too, will burn more calories.
Dogs love the beach for its new sights, smells and sounds, but many places frown on unleashed dogs. Stay leashed and enjoy the sights while you feel the burn.
When walking or jogging with your dog, start out slowly and pace yourself while gradually increasing the duration of the time spent outside. Your dog may need to build up their endurance and stamina, especially in inclement temperatures.
If you notice your dog panting heavily, trying to stop or swaying during runs, slow down — they may be pushing beyond their limits.
2. Climbing Staircases With Your Dog
If you have access to stairs, you’ve got a built-in fitness stepper that you can use anytime you’d like.
Spend time with your dog walking or jogging up and down the stairs, and get those heart rates up.
Stairs can be an effective weight-loss tool for dogs, no matter the current fitness level.
Even just plain walking forces your dog’s body to use more muscle to balance and push against gravity.
Just be careful — over-exuberant dogs can try to go too fast and end up tumbling down the stairs. It’s a good idea to accompany your pup while you’re stepping.
3. Playing Fetch With Your Dog
You can play fetch indoors or out, provided the weather is clear.
Most dogs love the idea of fetching (even if they haven’t exactly mastered the art of returning), some even more so in snowy conditions. If you have a fenced-in yard, a little snow on the ground isn’t going to get in the way of a good round of fetch.
Be mindful of the temperature, though. If it’s really cold out, limit your time outside.
Looking to sneak in some exercise for yourself while you’re out with your dog? Here’s a new twist on the old fetch classic:
- Instead of sitting and heaving the ball for your dog to chase, race them for it.
- Your dog will catch on quickly, and they’ll love the challenge of the race and the chase.
Expand on this in your own way. You’ll soon find that you and your dog have spent an hour or more outside just having fun — and you’ll have burned some calories, too.
4. Doing Yoga With Your Dog
Yoga with your dog — also known as doga — is a newer exercise craze, yet it’s easy to do.
If you already do yoga, simply involve your dog. No, really, it’s that easy.
- Small dogs can rest on your back while you do poses.
- Larger dogs can provide stability for when you’re doing standing poses.
- Just remember that your dog isn’t doing the poses — you are.
Ask your local yoga instructor if they do doga.
If not, ask where you might find a class to attend. Barring that, you can look online to find simple poses to do with your dog.
See our article “The Benefits of Doing Yoga With Your Dog” for more.
5. Dog Treadmills
Believe it or not, dog treadmills are a thing.
These treadmills sometimes use side guards to prevent falls and are designed for a dog’s gait rather than that of a human. It’s a great option for dogs who spend lots of snowbound time indoors.
A little trickier than other dog exercise methods, dog treadmill workouts require extra care in making sure your dog doesn’t get hurt.
Wag offers an excellent step-by-step treadmill training process that gives effective advice on how to safely implement a treadmill into your dog’s exercise routine.
Check out these happy dogs on their treadmill at home:
6. Swimming With Your Dog
After the snow thaws and winter gives way to lovely spring and then summer, go for a refreshing swim with your dog.
Swimming is a fantastic aerobic exercise that’s easy on joints and muscles — a dream for those worried about joint overextension during exercise.
Swimming is a no-impact calorie burn — and it’s fun for you and your dog.
The ASPCA has a few quick swimming tips:
- Make the first experiences with water pleasant for your dog. Let them wade in slowly while you encourage positively.
- Watch your dog to make sure they don’t swim into currents or riptides.
- Bring fresh water from home — even ponds and rivers can contain parasites.
- As with children, never leave dogs around pools unsupervised. Thousands of pets drown every year.
- Keep your dog away from smelly fish and jellyfish on the sand. Both can contain toxins and bacteria.
- Stay shallow. If you are over your head in the water and your dog tires, they may try to climb on top of you.
Look for dog-friendly beaches or pools so the two of you can doggy paddle your way to fitness.
For more great advice on swimming with your dog, see our article “Keeping Dogs Safe in Hot Weather: Your Summer Survival Guide.”
Best Way to Keep Your Dog Fit and Happy
Looking for a way for you and your dog to get healthy together?
Check out the FitBark 2, the highest-rated dog health monitor in the market. It’s a small, colorful device that you attach to your dog’s collar.
The FitBark 2 monitors activity levels, quality of sleep, distance traveled, calories burned, and overall health and behavior 24/7. Battery life is an unbelievable 6 months, so you can worry less about recharging and more about bonding with your pup. It fits dogs of any size, and it loves the water as much as your dog does!
Our Final Thoughts on Dog Exercise
So get out there and work those legs — all 4 of them (or 6, if you’re joining in on the fun). Your dog’s health will benefit.
Dogs are naturally very playful, so if you keep an open mind, you’ll most likely to find many opportunities throughout the day to sneak in some exercise with your dog.
Remember to check with your vet before implementing or changing your dog’s exercise routine, especially if you think the physical demands will be much higher than your pet’s existing workout.
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- “2017 Pet Obesity Survey Results.” Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. April 19, 2018. https://petobesityprevention.org/2017.