Both dogs and humans that are overweight can develop serious health issues like diabetes, heart problems and even cancer. And last month, USA Today reported that teens living in a household with a dog got more exercise than those without a pooch.
To help those of all ages looking to get both themselves and their pups in shape, we created this guide to a week’s worth of easy exercises to do with your dog.
Monday is a great day to start a small exercise regiment since it’s the first day of the work week. Mondays are usually hectic for most people, so day one starts off with just a simple walk around the neighborhood. It may not seem like much, but walking your four-legged friend around the block burns more calories than watching “Glee.”
For this exercise, you’ll only need a leash and a water bottle for your pup; bringing one for yourself is a good idea if you tend to run out of breath quickly. Once you and your dog are on the sidewalk, think about how far you want to go. If you’re walking before dinner is ready, a short distance is best, but if you’re walking after dinner, you may want to take a longer route. Bringing a flashlight is a great idea when walking at night. Morning and afternoon walkers should be careful of long trips that may cause your dog to become exhausted.
For day 1, I walked my Keeshond, Nala, around the block. The three-fourths mile trip took 16 minutes and, according to my iPhone’s RunKeeper app, burned 68 calories. Walks are easy and the calorie count alone should be enough motivation to put down the remote and pick up your dog’s leash. Best of all, your dog will be much happier walking rather than chasing his own tail around the living room. (Although if your dog does the latter, feel free to share it on YouTube.)
On the second day, we kick it up a notch with running around the neighborhood or along the beach with your dog. This exercise calls for well-behaved dogs that are easy to control while running on a leash. If your dog tends to stray or sniff, consider another walk. The run doesn’t have to be far since it burns calories faster than walking.
For this exercise, I went for a run with Nala. I’m not a runner by any means, so I really did a run/walk. I burned 100 calories in about 16 minutes. The basic rule for burning calories is 100 per mile, no matter if you’re running or walking. Running burns calories faster, but be sure to know your dog’s limits. If your pup can’t keep up with you, slow down and walk back home. A great way to reward your dog for a job well done is a small treat afterward.
The third day is devoted to getting your heart, and your dog’s, pumping with a swim. Pet parents with their own pool will find this a relaxing exercise to do with their pup. Be sure your dog adequately knows the doggy paddle before jumping in the pool with him. For this exercise, it’s best to have another person watch the dog while you’re swimming. However, if you’re just splashing around or throwing the tennis ball, one person is enough.
This exercise is perfect for summertime, and even a leisurely swim burns calories. It’s difficult to track calories underwater, but Everyday Health has a swimming calorie calculator. In my case, I burned 163 calories in 30 minutes with a leisurely, fun swim with my boyfriend’s Leonburger, Amiko and his two Boston Terriers. Best of all, your pups will be clean and tired after swimming.
The fourth day is dedicated to dog/human bootcamp.
In the Los Angeles area, the Thank! Dog Bootcamp offers fitness classes for you and your dog that incorporate bootcamp exercise with dog obedience training. The bootcamp’s mission is to help both people and their dogs get into shape.
Recently, i Love Dogs writer Sonya Simpkins ventured out for a bootcamp workout with her dog, Scout. The class began with a warm-up that included jogging, stretching and commands to get the dogs warmed up, too. Sonya then put Scout into a lay-down position and grabbed some weights for her first session of shoulder exercises. Soon it was time to drop the weights for a round of cardio exercises along with commands for the dogs. Each Thank! Dog Bootcamp class burns more than 600 calories. New bootcamps will be held in Northern California and Milton, Canada in the months ahead.
If there isn’t a dog bootcamp near you, try creating your own one at home by combining your exercise routine with your dog’s obedience training.
The last day involves a reward for both you and your pup. Day 5′s exercise is a relaxing walk to a destination you enjoy. If you live near a shopping center or a park or beach, instead of driving to your destination, walk! For instance, I live near a Yogurtland, so for this exercise, instead of driving, I walked there with my boyfriend and Amiko. The best thing about walking to your destination is you can go at a pace you feel comfortable. Best of all, when I did this exercise I burned 276 calories by walking 2.5 miles.
Remember that these exercises can be done in any order or supplemented with your own workout routine. The goal is to get your heart-pumping and your dog out of the house because, just like their human counterparts, overweight dogs can face serious health problems.