Get Fit with Your Dog: Take the PetPlace Fitness Challenge

Your physician has said it time and time again; you've even heard it from your veterinarian. Now PetPlace is even chiming in, "Exercise and fitness are crucial to health and longevity." It's no mystery that finding the motivation to exercise can be a major challenge, but having a partner with similar goals makes fitness much easier to achieve. So why not get in shape with your always eager, adventure-loving dog?

We at PetPlace are extending a challenge to you and your canine companions to make a commitment to fitness. If you and / or your pet are out of shape, spend some quality, enjoyable time with your pooch being active, and watch your lives change! Even if you are already an athlete, we challenge you to include your dog in your exercise routine. Together you will bond, find new motivation, and achieve a higher level of health.

Why Exercise with Your Dog

So maybe you can't discuss that perfect pair of running shoes or share workout music with your canine exercise partner, but there is a multitude of other perks to being active with him.

Your dog will NOT judge you or make you feel inferior. If a particular workout is tiring you exceptionally quickly, your spandex shorts are less than flattering, or your deodorant is not quite doing the trick, your dog will still love you and be happy to exercise with you.
Your dog is the perfect motivational tool. Most dogs are excited for activity at any time of the day, and they have no stresses or inhibitions to hold them back from the challenge. This eagerness will rub off on you. Not to mention, it is never easy to refuse a wagging tail and pleading eyes when your dog wants a workout.

Your dog does not have a schedule to accompany. Having a human exercise partner can be a challenge. Between family, work, and other responsibilities, it can be difficult to find a time to meet. Your dog shouldn't have a problem fitting you in between his nap and teasing the neighborhood cat.

Your dog will keep away those feared and attract the desired. If you are walking or running with your dog in a public location, your dog will provide protection from criminals (or at least discourage them from approaching you) and may even help catch the eye of a dog-loving significant other!

Before Exercising with Your Dog

Before you and your dog begin your new active lifestyle, you should BOTH be cleared medically for your desired activity. A complete physical exam for you and your dog will assure that exercise will not be dangerous. Like humans, out-of-shape dogs cannot leap into strenuous activity. Your doctor and veterinarian will help you determine what level of exercise will be an appropriate starting point.

Exercise Ideas

How will you meet your fitness challenge? Obviously, your dog can't hit the gym with you, so what will you do together? Listed below are some ideas:

1. Walk – Walking can be a great cardiovascular workout, and it is a good starting point for out-of-shape dogs and / or owners. Walk at the park, around town, or a dog-friendly mall.

2. Run – Dogs LOVE to run! It provides a very effective full body workout for both pooch and person. Your dog's breed, age, and health should be considered when determining your running routine. Don't forget that short-legged dogs will have to work extra hard to keep up with your normal stride.

3. Hike – Enjoy the scenery and challenge your bodies as you and your dog share a trip through the heart of Mother Nature. Check out your local parks for dog-friendly trails. Don't forget to have your dog current on flea, tick, and heartworm prevention before trekking through those buggy areas!

4. Bike – This takes some coordination from both you and your dog, especially if the dog will be leashed. This workout is great for dogs who are too speedy for their owners to keep up with while running. Biking allows the dog to run at a fast pace beside the cycling owner. Be very careful when biking with your dog, and practice it slowly in a safe area before reaching high speeds.

5. Swim – If you have your own backyard pool or you have access to a lake or pond, swimming is another excellent full-body workout that you can enjoy with your dog. Not all breeds are designed for this activity, and not every dog is a talented swimmer. Allow beginner canine swimmers to practice supervised in a safe area.

6. Agility – Agility is a canine sport which can demand a lot of activity from the owner as well. This fun sport allows your dog to run an obstacle course, while the owner often runs along side him giving commands and directions.

7. Retrieve – Frisbee, ball, stick….whatever drives your dog will do for a fun game of fetch. This activity is a great low-intensity workout for you, but will surely wear out your active dog.

If you are quite concerned about finding the motivation to exercise, try planning your workout routine a week in advance. Write your plan on a calendar, and hang it where you will see it often. Crossing off your workouts when they are accomplished will be rewarding and encouraging.

Your routine will depend on your goals and your current fitness level. A good plan will include more than one type of exercise spread over five to six days with one to two rest days to recover your muscles.
If you are selecting one exercise as your main activity, choose another activity to use as cross-training one to two times each week. For example, if you and your dog want to become runners, your week might look something like this:

Sunday: run / Monday: swim / Tuesday: run / Wednesday: rest / Thursday: bike / Friday: run Saturday: rest

Again, your schedule, intensity, distance, etc. will depend on your preferences and the current fitness levels of you and your dog.
What to Watch for When Exercising Your Dog
While you must pay attention to what your own body is telling you during exercise, you must also pay close attention to your dog.

Remember to be especially careful when exercising your dog outside on a hot day. Below are signs that your dog may need a break or may need to stop exercising:

1. Excessive panting
2. Noisy breathing
3. Hanging head
4. Weakness
5. Bright red gums
6. Limping
7. Bleeding paw pads
8. Collapse

Recognizing Fitness Success in Your Dog

As your dog becomes more active, you may begin to notice positive changes in his behavior. Your couch potato dog may have more energy as he gains fitness. Your hyperactive, destructive dog may be more relaxed and well-behaved as exercise becomes his constructive outlet for energy. You may notice your obese dog developing a waist and becoming healthier. Most importantly, you and your healthier dog will have more years to spend together.

Share Your Stories

If you and your dog are taking the PetPlace challenge and making fitness a commitment, we would love to hear your stories and see your pictures! Please email them to us! Tell us about your journey toward better health: your goals, your achievements, your hard work, and the fun times you share with your dog along the way. We look forward to hearing from you!