A dog can be a fantastic fitness companion. No matter what your own level, goals, and desires for fitness may be, there is a dog that can match well. However, understanding the differences between dogs and fitness routines can help you make the best possible match.
Making Room in Your Home
Not all dogs are active. Some much prefer being couch potatoes and sleeping rather than running, chasing, and fetching. However, if your dog is an active type, you will need some space in your home to accommodate them, even if you exercise them regularly. A fenced-in yard is a great idea to give them space to roam when alone. Inside your home, use baby gates, or even just designate a whole room as a dog space where they can go and play with toys, roll around, or chew on treats.
Picking the Right Breed
The right breed can make a lot of difference. This even applies to shelter pets, who often exhibit characteristics that track with those of known breeds. The size of your pet will be the first determination. You likely won’t go for long jogs with a tiny chihuahua or a massive mastiff. Understand which breeds fit the physical activity and traits you need. German Shepherds are a highly active breed, and popular with fitness enthusiasts because they are good at most activities, as are breeds like Labradors and Golden Retrievers. Other dogs may work best with specific activities. While Huskies have boundless energy, their pull instinct may make them tough for a dedicated jogger, but good on a hiking trail. A hound might love running with you but may chafe at leisurely walks. Understand the activity levels and breed-specific traits before making a choice. With shelter pets, try and identify which breed characteristics may be involved so you can prepare.
Your Desired Activity Level
It is also important to consider your activity level and what you plan to do. A hardcore fitness enthusiast may be seeking a companion to tackle tough mountain hiking trails. A beginner may simply be looking for a dog that can walk well on a leash for an extended period. Some may be planning to start small but advance to more strenuous activity. Doing some research on breeds or types of dogs that work well for your desired activity can give you the inside edge on getting the perfect companion for your exercise. Having a buddy to work out with you, regardless of how strenuous or easy you want or need to take it will help encourage you to keep going and maintain your active lifestyle.
Activities for Different Levels
Depending on the kinds of activities you wish to do, different dogs may serve a better role. A low-intensity activity like walking is a good, basic exercise for both dog and owner. Older dogs and humans, or who experience joint pain, can use walking as a low impact way to stay healthy and active. Jogging and flat trail hiking are a notch up in intensity and stress while running – both sprints and distance, elevated hiking and swimming are some of the highest intensity activities. Many dogs can excel at different levels and activities, so consider both your starting activity level and what your end goals may be.
Proper Equipment for Your Dog
Being active with your dog brings a new consideration toward the equipment you may need to use. Retractable leashes, which are a popular leash type, are wholly unsuited to large dogs and running. Many active pet owners prefer a harness instead of a leash and collar for better control and comfort of the dog. Shorter leashes are more suitable for keeping your dog by your side during a jog instead of charging ahead, while a longer leash may allow a dog more freedom to roam about during a hike. If going on an extra-long run or hike, you may want to carry a collapsible water dish to give your pooch a thirst quench. Booties can also be useful for ground that is hot, cold or slippery as well as being suitable in rough outdoor terrain.
Build Up Your Routine
Regardless of which dog you get, it is important to build up a routine and not immediately jump into high-stress endurance activity. A vet checkup is always recommended before starting a new routine to make sure your dog is healthy and ready for the activity. Start by giving your new dog regular walks, building up to jogs or runs if that is your desired personal activity. Take the time to judge your dog’s fitness level and how well they handle the exercise. Some dogs may be unused to strenuous exercise at first, even if they are of a breed commonly known to be active. Don’t overwork your dog before you know how well they keep up with you.
Pay Attention to Signals
Dogs can’t speak, but that does not mean that they cannot communicate. Dogs will give a variety of signs and signals to you which merit your attention. You should especially be on the lookout for signs that your dog is tiring, which can help you avoid serious problems such as heatstroke. Excessive panting or foaming and a slowing of their pace are signs that you need to stop and get your dog water quickly. Avoid exercising in extreme conditions, or pushing your dog to quickly adapt an unfamiliar routine that is beyond their limits.
Just like people, dogs also benefit from a cooldown period and appropriate post-exercise recovery. If performing a strenuous activity, do a short and leisurely walk to finish up and keep the muscles stretched properly. Make sure water is readily available, but ensure they are not gorging in a moment of thirst. Give them plenty of time to rest and relax comfortably in your home. Also, make sure they are receiving plenty of food to keep up their energy and recovery levels, but give them some time after an exercise period before they eat.
A dog may be just the thing you need to either start a new exercise regimen or take it to a new level. Their boisterous energy and innocent demands are proven winners at motivating their owners to get moving or go on adventures. As long as you pick the right dog for the desired task, bring them up to speed gently and make sure they aren’t overexerting, you should have a happy and willing partner for years to come.
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