Photo credit: Octavia Drughi
They say that dogs make excellent training partners, and the saying couldn’t be truer. According to a study from the Michigan State University, dog owners are 34% more likely to get the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week than those who do not have a dog. Regardless of the season, your age or fitness level, a four-legged exercising buddy will push you to your limits – they take very little time to recover from physical strain, and will drag you outside no matter whether it is sunny, raining or snowing.
Take the relationship with your dog to the next level. From hiking and running to stand-up paddling trips and even surfing, here are some great outdoor exercising ideas for you and your dog to strengthen the bond.
Hiking with your dog
Hiking through the woods, past streams and lakes, up to cloud-covered peaks is by far one of the best ways to spend quality time outdoors and bond with your four-legged friend. It can be as relaxing or as demanding as you like – from a few yours of light yoga and hiking to a few days of camping up the mountains.
Before you embark on your next adventure with your canine friend as your trusty companion, make sure that the area you plan to visit allows dogs. Some natural parks or wildlife reserves have strict policies when it comes to dog access, so check the regulations and see if you are allowed to enter and whether you need to keep your pooch on a leash.
Another important aspect is making sure that your dog is up to the challenge. Hiking up to those pointy ridges is hard work and both of you must be properly prepared. After all, you wouldn’t want to become a porter for your dog halfway through the trip. You should both build endurance gradually in order to make it through the trip safe and sound and, of course, enjoy your time up there on the mountains.
Photo credit: Octavia Drughi
Start taking your dog on short walks and low-intensity hikes ever since she’s a small pup. Teach her to overcome various obstacles by setting yourself as an example, all the while encouraging her with a soft voice and and keeping a hand on her harness to make her feel safe and also to make sure she does not slip uncontrollably. If you have an older dog that you’ve never taken on a hike before, you should do the same – take it easy and allow yourselves time to build trust.
Take regular breaks and do not push your dog over her limits. If she’s lagging behind, it could mean that she’s tired. Also, make sure that you give her enough water. If you have a large breed, you can invest in a doggie backpack that will allow your four-legged friend to carry her own water and snacks.
Running with your dog
Photo credit: Timo Waltari via Flickr
Dogs are the best running partners! It doesn’t matter if it’s sunny, windy, rainy or snowing, once they get into the habit of exercising, they will drag you outside regardless of the weather.
Some breeds are better at long-distance running, while others are better at short-distance sprints. Either way, every dog must first get used to running shorter distances and at low intensity. Start by taking your dog on short brisk walks, and then gradually move towards longer walks and eventually low-intensity running. You will progress together!
If you cannot run with your dog leash-free, then use a hands-free running leash. You can either buy one of make one yourself – attach a longer leash to your waist instead of your wrist. Of course, you need to make sure that the leash is not too long so that it does not get in the way of other runners.
Stop when your dog wants to stop and avoid the hot parts of the day. Needless to say, your dog should have access to fresh water, especially on longer runs. That’s when a doggie backpack comes in handy once again.
Stand-up paddle boarding with your dog
The fastest-growing water sport is taking the world by storm. Anyone can do it – your nephew, your grandmother, even your dog! While there are many pictures on the Internet of dogs on stand-up paddle boards, teaching your dog to ride with you is not always an easy task. First, your dog needs to become comfortable with the idea of floating on water.
Get your dog used to the board by leaving it around the house for her to smell and sit on. Then, take the board and your dog on the beach. You should both sit on the board just as you would if you were out on the water.
The next step is to pick a calm day to go SUP-ing on a flat-water surface. At first, you can paddle standing on your knees, thus lowering your gravity center in case your dog starts to wobble the board. You’ll probably both take a dip anyway, but practice does make perfect!
Before teaching your dog to ride a stand-up paddleboard, make sure you have enough experience yourself. Dogs “smell” fear and stress, which can make them uncomfortable and jittery. Also, use a doggy life vest that will save your four-legged friend in case of an accident, will make her more visible in the water and easier to grab and pull back on the board.
Surfing with your dog
Once you’ve both mastered stand-up paddle boarding, you can take water sports to the next level and give surfing a try. Just look at the Guinness Book of Records – surf dogs like Abbie Girls and Ricochet have proven that surfing is for our four-legged friends too, and that dogs can actually be pretty good at riding waves.
Before taking your dog out on the waves, make sure she knows how to swim, is comfortable being in the water and does not panic when waves splash onto her. Also, teach your dog to not drink seawater.
Always use a doggie life vest when surfing with your dog and never venture into big waves. Surf leashes are not a good idea either, as dogs can easily be strangled with them. Your dog will need her own board – you can find special dog surfboards or you can opt for a soft-top foam board. These have a far better grip and do not hurt as bad as a hardtop boards if your dog gets hit by them.
Saltwater dehydrates, so make sure you have fresh water available for your dog at all times. Also, keep in mind that surfing is much harder for dogs than it is for us. They cannot paddle into the waves or get on the board by themselves, and they cannot wear a wetsuit to keep them warm either. This is why you should never force your dog into the water. If she keeps refusing to venture into the waves, it could be that she simply doesn’t want to and you should respect her decision.
Before venturing outdoors, make sure your dog is up-to-date with vaccinations and tick and flea treatments. Check in with your vet to see whether your dog can handle intense physical strain and that there’s no underlying medical condition that could put your dog at risk when exercising with you.
Check your dogs for fleas and ticks as soon as you get home, even if she is up-to-date with her treatments. Also, check your dog’s paws for injuries that might occur after hiking, running or surfing. Try to avoid contact with asphalt on hot days and, on cold days, check paws for ice build-up.
*This article was written in loving memory of my Siberian Husky girl, Maya, which is why I used feminine pronouns throughout the article.
Author: Octavia Drughi
Author bio: Octavia is a travel writer for BookSurfCamps.com and BarePockets.com. She is a passionate mountaineer, rock climber and dog lover who feels just as comfortable high on the rocks as she does deep down in the sea.