You walk your dog a couple of times per day. For some people, that is the best exercise they — and their dogs — get. You, though, want to exercise more rigorously. You need to get in better physical condition and the stop-and-start walks with your dog as it sniffs around looking for a spot to do its business aren’t good enough.
Unfortunately, your previous attempts at rigorous exercise failed. You’re just not good at motivating yourself to exercise alone. You tried convincing a few friends to exercise with you, but they just weren’t interested. Then, you noticed a neighbor jogging with its dog. ‘Is this a good idea?’ you thought to yourself. ‘How does Diane know her dog is willing and able to jog without continually stopping to do what dogs do? Should I jog with my dog?’
Should You Rigorously Exercise With Your Dog?
The answer to the question “should you exercise rigorously with your dog?” is dependent on two factors — whether the exercise benefits you and whether the exercise benefits your dog. The first factor is pretty close to a no-brainer. In fact, people with dogs are fitter and healthier than people without dogs and are about 34 percent more likely to get the amount of exercise that the American College of Sports Medicine recommends — 20 to 60 minutes of continuous exercise three to five days per week.
“A dog can do more for you than a treadmill,” “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound” author Rebecca Johnson told Women’sHealth magazine in an article entitled “Work Out With Your Dog.” ”When you interact with a dog, endorphins rise and stress levels fall. This emotional connection gives an extra boost to your workouts.”
Whether rigorous exercise with your dog benefits your dog is not a no-brainer. Dogs, of course, are bred to run. They love to run. Unlike your friends, they’re not going to complain when you ask them to run. That doesn’t mean they should run with you.
“People are actually better suited for jogging or long-distance running than dogs are,” reports the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in its “Exercise for Dogs” article. “If you jog with your dog on leash, be careful not to overestimate her abilities and go too far. If she seems stiff, sore and exhausted for hours afterward, scale back next time. Also, be careful to check your dog’s paws after a run. Dogs get blisters on their pads, just like people get blisters on their feet.”
The ASPCA recommends having your dog examined by a veterinarian before it begins exercising rigorously. It also emphasizes repeatedly that your dog’s breed, size, and age is crucial in making a decision about whether your dog should rigorously exercise with you. The ASPCA’s observations include:
- Dogs who are under 18 months of age shouldn’t participate in sustained jogging because their bones haven’t finished growing.
- Large dogs need to be in better condition than small dogs to jog with you. They are also more susceptible to a wide variety of bone, joints, and ligament injuries than small dogs.
- Be careful about rigorously exercising older dogs — dogs that are at least seven years old. They are susceptible to becoming lame because their joints are weaker.
- Breeds with flat or short noses can have trouble breathing during rigorous exercise. These dogs are called brachycephalic breeds. They include American Cocker Spaniels, American Pit Bull Terriers, Boston Terriers, Boxers, Bulldogs, Bullmastiffs, Lhasa Apsos, Malteses, Pekingeses, Pugs, Shih Tzus, and Yorkshire Terriers.
In general, though, dogs should get at least 30 minutes of rigorous exercise per day as well as one to two hours of daily activity, reports“Exercising with Your Dog 101.” Herding, hunting and working dogs such as collies, hounds, Labrador retrievers, and shepherds should get the most exercise.
Before heading out, though, check out these safety tips for working out with your dog. Carrying water for your dog, ending the exercise if your dog is excessively panting, and checking your dog’s paws for cuts and scrapes afterward are among the more important tips.