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Jogging and Other Aerobic Exercising with Dogs

There are many high-energy activities for keeping dogs physically and mentally fit, such as ball fetching, jogging, agility training, frisbee, flyball, tracking, lure coursing (with plastic bags, therapy visits and obedience competition. This tipsheet will focus on ways to exercise your dog by including her in your own outdoor aerobic exercise regimen.

As the saying goes, a tired dog is a well-behaved dog. Indeed, making sure your dog gets enough exercise each day is an effective way to prevent dogs from developing and engaging in destructive or hyper behaviors. And as you can guess, exercise offers the same benefits to canines as it does for people: tones muscles, helps prevent obesity, strengthens the cardiovascular system, strengthens bones, improves sleep, improves mood, provides mood-stabilizing benefits, enhances mental alertness and promotes health. Outdoor exercise also provides socialization opportunities.

While some dogs need much more exercise than others, all dogs of any age benefit from daily activity. One way to ensure you both get enough exercise is to exercise together.

How much exercise?

Monitor the individual dog to determine how much exercise and what kinds of exercise she needs. A 15-minute walk twice a day may be enough for some dogs. Others need at least two 30-minute walks.

Age is a key consideration. An adolescent dog might have the energy to outrun you, whereas an older dog, as much as he'd like to keep pace with his person, should not be subjected to rigorous workouts.

If your dog shows no signs of exertion and/or shows signs of pent-up energy when you return from your walks, she is not getting enough exercise. The solutions range from longer walks to jogging to more interactive playtime indoors.

Breed considerations:

Keep your dog's breed in mind when planning your exercise routine. Small dogs with short legs usually don't need to ... or should not ...be walked or jogged as long as larger dogs.

Breeds with short noses may have trouble breathing when exercised vigorously. Short-snouters range from little pugs to bulldogs to boxers and many others.

And don't assume that racing breeds such as Greyhounds and whippets can run marathons. While they are built to run, they were not breed to run for long distances.

And for young pups and big breeds of any age, sustained jogging or running is too hard on their joints.

First things first:

Before engaging in a high-energy exercise program with your dog, have your veterinarian check him out -- heart, lungs, joints, ligaments, weight -- and assess his fitness level.

If your dog is overweight, put her on a diet in addition to giving her more exercise. See the Dog Tipsheet about dieting for dogs.

Make sure you teach your dog how to heel. Keeping your dog at your side while jogging is essential. If your dog lurches ahead or drags behind you when you walk at a leisurely pace, imagine the problems that can cause when you're moving at higher speed. Constantly pulling on the dog can damage the animal's throat as well as throw you off balance.

Also, teach your dog to sit and sit-stay. This is essential for those times you need to stop at intersections and at the approach of bicyclists, dogs, other joggers, darting squirrels and any other potential distractions along narrow jogging trails and other bottleneck-type areas.

Work up ... and warm up:

Gradually increase the duration and intensity of exercise of the course of a few weeks, as you would with yourself.

Be consistent and committed. This means a daily, not just a weekend, exercise routine. This approach will enable your dog -- and you -- to gradually build up stamina. This is particularly important for puppies, senior dogs, overweight dogs and dogs with any health condition.

As you begin each exercise session, warm up with a steady walk to get the muscles working and ready before launching into more vigorous activity. Allow at least five minutes to warm up, and an equal period of time to cool down at the end of your exercise session.

Humans are better suited to jogging or running for long periods nonstop than are canines, who tend to engage in short, intense bursts of running with intermittent stops to sniff around, piddle and absorb the scenery.

Don't assume that because your dog (or you) is a weekend athlete that she can engage full-bore into an intense exercise activity without working up gradually to that level of intensity. Pace yourselves! And remember to always warm up the muscles when you begin any exercise session.

Here's some smart advice from Steve Dale, from his "The Dog Daily" article "Take Your Dog Jogging With You" (www.thedogdaily.com/you_dog/trythis/archive/jogging): "Assuming your dog does know how to walk at your side, start by speed-walking for about 30 seconds, then slow it down, and after a minute or so speed it up again. Randomly go fast and then slow and then fast and then faster and then slow. The idea is to teach your dog to follow your pace."

A few words about potty and sniff breaks:

Is your dog used to being able to sniff the ground as you go on your daily walks? He'll naturally want to keep doing this even when you jog. Don't get frustrated. Teach him to pay attention to you during your jogs. And before you set off running, let your dog have ample time to relieve himself as well as sniff around. Then later, after you finish your jog and are in the cool-down phase, give him another chance to potty and to sniff around before bringing him inside.

Another smart tip from Steve Dale that you can use to help your dog differentiate going for a walk from going for a run: use a special leash for jogging. "Your dog will see the different leash and soon understand that the special leash is meant for serious running - no stopping to smell the flowers."

Avoid overexertion:

Remember, dogs will usually try to keep up with their people just because it is their nature to do so. This can mask fatigue and overshadow signs that the dog is overdoing it. So be vigilant and do not push your dog too hard.

If your dog tries to stop, it's usually best to let him, since that is often a clear message that he's being pushed beyond his capacity. If the dog is panting heavily or is listing from side to side ... or his gait otherwise becomes uneven ... slow down to a slow walk, or stop for a water and rest break. It may be time to go home. Be sure to see the section about heat stroke later in this tipsheet.

Establish a routine:

Being a weekend athlete isn't enough to sustain health for humans or canines. Make exercise part of your daily routine. Customize your exercise plan to your schedule so you can stick with it ... and then stick to it.

Devise alternative exercise plans for bad weather. Remember, you can exercise outdoors even when it's cold or it rains, as long as you have the right gear and towels to dry your dog off upon your return home.

Environmental considerations:

While you probably don't want to be just a fair-weather exerciser, realize that weather conditions can affect your dog's energy level and endurance.

Be aware of the terrain - for trip and slip hazards as well as the possible impact on your dog's paws and body.

Keep your dog's nails trimmed to reduce the chance of them splitting during your vigorous jogs.

Check out your dog's footpads after you return from jogging ... and during your jog if the dog shows any change in gait or pace. Some surfaces, such as gravel and rock, can be very hard on dogs' feet. Watch the pads for cracking or wear. Watch out for glass shards and debris; remember, you have footwear but your canine does not.

During hot weather, exercise in morning or evening, not during the heat of the day, which is hard on a dog's health ... plus hot pavement will hurt his paws.

During cold and snowy weather check for, and remove, ice on the footpads and between toes.

Check your dog's coat, ears, eyes and paws for burrs, ticks, and other unwanted stuff that might be picked up along the way.

Stay hydrated:

For lengthy walks or jogs ... or any exercise sessions during warm weather ... bring water for yourself and your dog. It is usually smart to bring some healthy tidbits for your dog too. These can do more than energize your dog; they can be invaluable in regaining his attention if he is distracted or disturbed by something or someone he sees along your exercise route.

Safety tips:

* Be aware of where your dog is positioned at all times. It is your responsibility to your dog, yourself and others to maintain control of your dog.

* Jog with only one dog at a time. You might be able to walk two dogs at once, but you really need maximum control when moving at higher speed. Plus, if a problem arises with one dog, even if one dog simply becomes fatigued, you might wind up far from home with two dogs who can't move along at the same pace.

* Continually survey the landscape for trip hazards such as broken pavement, slip hazards such as dew-slick leaves and prey animals the sight of which could fire your dog into power drive.

* Use a leash. When exercising outdoors, keep your dog on leash for his safety and the safety of others. By using the leash, you stay in control, even if you encounter a surprise on the hiker-biker trail. This applies to wilderness areas too; your dog could head for the hills upon spying a strange wild animal.

* Do not tie the leash to your wrist.

* Hands-free leashes: while some people like the Dog Jogger and other hands-free leashes that attach or wrap around the waist, others find that they are frequently thrown off balance when using these devices. It's best to keep leash firmly in hand.

* Carry a stick or bone to throw if approached by unleashed dog or other animal.

* Be visible: Buy and use reflective bands on yourself, reflective collars on your dog. There are a variety of handy reflectors and blinking tags available.

* Remember to make sure your dog is wearing identification and is properly vaccinated for rabies. Although you're using a leash, you want to be prepared in case you drop the leash, the leash or collar buckle fails, or for any other unforeseen problem.

* Remember to bring water, especially on long run and during warm weather. More health and safety tips are below.

* Skating, Biking or Motoring to Exercise A Dog. It can be very dangerous to bike, skate or skateboard with your dog. The leash can get caught up on something, the dog could run into you or you could run into the dog, the dog could lurch out in traffic, the dog could get loose, get scared and run off. Another potential hazard of biking, blading and skating with dogs: there have been reports of dogs' paws and tails getting run over by wheels and caught in wheel spokes.

And it is a horrible idea to have a dog run along with a motor vehicle, with leash out the window or attached to the vehicle etc. When walking or running a dog, the handler's own feet should be on the ground too. If you do decide to bike or skate with your dog, practice falling down and aiming for grassy areas ... and wear a helmet.

More tips:

* Bonding. Exercising together is a great way to bond with your companion animal.

* Harnesses: many people find it's easier to handle dogs - and more comfortable for the dog - to use a body harness instead of traditional neck-attached leash for jogging and walking.

* Avoid heavy exercise right after eating. Let some time pass after feeding before going out to exercise.

* Socialization and Fear. Outdoor exercise provides additional socialization opportunities. However, it is up to you to keep all encounters positive and safe. If your dog shows fear of bicycles and skaters, you need to work on developing the dog's confidence, and above all, watch for potential problems and keep your dog safe ... and in check. Never give your dog an opportunity to jump or nip at an oncoming person. Even if your dog backs away in fear, you really do want to do your best to keep the dog from feeling fearful. Steer him out of what he may perceive to be harm's way. Pick up your dog and carry him away if you must. But note: the practice of picking up small dogs and holding them above other dogs, or at "people-level" in front of other people, often exacerbates aggression in your dog. Aim for reducing feelings of fear as well as reducing any tendencies toward aggression.

Among the first lessons to teach your dog is to pay attention to you. Before taking your dog to public places, it's important that your dog knows to count on you, and to look to you, for guidance. It's equally important for you to know how to regain your dog's attention when he is excited, agitated, frightened or otherwise distracted by someone or something encountered along your walk.

You can find excellent guidance in training-focused books (see the Dog Tip on Helpful Books for Pet People. And some less-comprehensive guidance in online articles such as 'Watch Me' at http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_WatchMe.html

Practice these so that when you are in public, you'll be able to keep and regain your dog's attention. Keep her focused on you, and as soon as you notice a potential trigger - a loose animal, jogger, bicyclist, skater or the like - give him a behavior cue, such as 'Watch Me' or 'sit-stay.' Carry a bag of small tasty treats, and a clicker if you use this effective tool, so that you'll be prepared at all times. Be sure to reward and verbally praise your dog for listening to you. Don't give a release cue (such as 'OK') until you are well beyond the distraction.

Also, it pays to teach your dog to tolerate triggers such as joggers, bicyclists and baby strollers. You can acclimate your dog to bikes, strollers and fast-moving people with the help of a willing friend or neighbor in the course of a few short sessions. If you have a young dog or newly adopted adult dog, start this conditioning, as part of socialization, from the start. If your dog has already developed a fear of, or aggression towards, such triggers, enlist the help of a good positive-methods trainer/behaviorist before the situation escalates into a bite.

You can also find detailed steps for counter-conditioning responses and desensitizing dogs to such fear triggers in 'The Fearful Dog' and other books in the Helpful Books for Pet People tipsheet. Also be sure to review the free Dog Tips index for other relevant tipsheets, such as those on leadership. Becoming and being the leader in your dog's eyes will make walks, and life, much more pleasant for you, your dog and the people you encounter on outings.

* Bring plastic bags on your outing so that you can pick up after your pet. And carry a stick or bone to throw if approached by unleashed dog or other animal.

* Food. Some folks who exercise with their dogs feed special foods, such as types formulated for working dogs. The hardworking dog may also, but not always, need a slightly higher intake of salt to replace that lost in exercise. In any case, make sure to feed your dog nutritious food each day. Feed a diet appropriate for the individual dog. There's plenty of excellent information in contemporary books, on the internet, and even in some of our other Dog Tipsheets. A good diet improves and support health, prevents illness, can reduce or eliminate food allergies, can improve behavior and will make it easier to clean up after your dog.

* Water. Of course, make sure your dog always has clean, fresh water to drink.

* Overweight. According to 2004 research at the Wellness Institute at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, overweight people and their dogs can lose weight and stay trim by dieting and exercising together. The pet owners shed as many pounds as a control group of non-pet owners, while the dogs dropped even more body weight. The study involved 82 people, including 36 people who had overweight dogs of all sizes. The human subjects were mostly women, about 45 years old, and moderately obese. The people attended counseling sessions on diet and fitness while eating no more than 1,400 calories a day. They were encouraged to walk and exercise with their pets daily. The dogs were put on a calorie-reduced diet. On average, the humans shed about 11 pounds, or 5 percent of their body weight. The animals lost an average of 15 percent of their weight. The most a person lost was 51 pounds; the most for a dog, 35 pounds.

Fun and games:

* Fetch. Bring a ball, knotted rope or sturdy visible toy along to play fetch outdoors in safely confined areas. (Or indoors for days when you can't get outside.) However, avoid using tree branches or sticks, since they can hurt a dog's mouth. Teach your dog the "release" or "drop it" command ... and of course, how to bring the toy back to you.

* Soccer. You can use a Kong toy, which bounces in unpredictable directions, or soccer balls made for dogs, to play soccer-like games with your pooch.

* Dog parks can be fun, but only for dogs who get along with all other dogs. Some dogs do get hurt and traumatized at dog parks. In any case, if you visit a dog park, do not let your dog off-leash if the area is not fully, adequately fenced. Even if "other owners do it." In addition, watch to make sure your dog does not consume anything off the ground in any parks. Put safety first.

* Swimming: if you have taught your dog to swim, and you have a safe place to swim with her, swimming is a great, healthy, aerobic activity for both you and your dog (including dogs with joint and other physical problems). You can play fetch in the water.

* Frisbee or flyball: great workouts for your dog.

* Agility training: super exercise for body and mind. You can buy specially made equipment or create your own out of old tires, wood planks, concrete blocks, tubes, even hula hoops.

* Night time exercise. Don't get home from work until late, and you don't want to jog in the dark? Some folks play intense games of fetch in fenced yards at night, using white or light-up balls.

Avoiding and treating heat exhaustion and heat stroke:

Prolonged exposure to high temperature and/or humidity can lead to heat stroke, a condition in which the animal can no longer maintain normal body temperature. Dogs do not sweat to cool themselves; they pant instead, which is not as efficient as sweating. At times when panting is not sufficient to reduce the body temperature, heat stroke will occur. That's why you should not exercise your dog on very hot or humid days.

Heat stroke can result in collapse, organ failure and death. So it must be treated immediately.

Early signs of heat exhaustion include rapid, labored breathing, excessive panting, salivation, lethargy and weakness, muscle tremors, bright red mucous membranes in the gums or eyes and/or bright red tongue and staggering. As the condition progresses, symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, seizures or collapse.

If your dog shows signs of heat exhaustion:

* Carry your dog to a cool, shady place. If possible, get her inside.

* Place a cool, wet towel over her. Apply water to the head, neck and chest. Fan her using cardboard or a blanket to speed evaporation, which will help cool the blood. Or submerge her in cool or lukewarm water.

* Do not apply ice as this can damage skin, constrict blood flow and does not effectively lower the core temperature.

* You can apply rubbing alcohol on the skin to help cool the animal.

* Provide drinking water, but do not force an animal to drink. Note that a dog may vomit the water if consumed too quickly. As an alternative, give the dog ice cubes, or even a popsicle or ice cream, to lick.

* Get the dog to a veterinarian immediately.

Jogging with dog and baby:

Ambitious moms and dads must be very careful when jogging with both baby and dog. Here are some essential safety measures adapted from an article by trainer/author Alexandra Allred, author of Teaching Basic Obedience: Train the Owner, Train the Dog.

* Remember, it's safer to not try to jog with baby and dog at the same time.

* Do not use the stroller as a hitching post. If something excites your dog, and she is tied to the stroller, he could accidentally yank over the stroller before you can intervene.

* Do not wrap the leash around your wrist. Yes, this seems easier at times than holding the leash in hand, but if the dog yanks you, the result could be an injured wrist, knocked-over stroller, or your hand being pulled off the stroller. The loss of control is not worth the risk.

* Always hold the leash. Don't risk having your dog run off or getting in a tiff with another dog or approaching jogger, bicyclist or walker. Don't let the leash drag on the ground behind your dog, since you can't reach it in time. Keep leash in hand.

Threatened by another dog while jogging or walking:

When facing an oncoming dog, whether a stray dog or an aggressive-seeming dog not being controlled adequately by his handler, remain calm and act fast.

Stop jogging and pull your dog close to you. Using a firm but calm tone of voice, say "OFF!" or "NO!" Say "OFF!" or "NO!" to the approaching dog repeatedly.

As we tell children, do not scream or jump around or otherwise convey tension and fear, as that will serve only to incite the approaching dog and scare your own.

Most dogs mean no harm, and won't show aggression unless threatened. Calmly walk in another direction, keeping your dog close. Continue using a confident, calm, firm tone of voice and demonstrate to both dogs that you are in control.

You can also avert problems and ward off the oncoming dog by throwing a bone or stick or even a snack in the opposite direction, then calmly and quickly leave the area with your dog.

If the approaching dog definitely is aggressive and attacks your dog, in a worst-case situation you might have to drop the leash to allow your dog a chance to escape.

Related Reading:

Aggression, Growling, Lunging at Dogs and People Outdoors

Detailed guide about avoiding and stopping fights between approaching dogs, dealing with oncoming bicyclists, skaters and other passersby, and aggression between dogs on walks/runs. Contents include: * Aggression to Passersby (Dogs and People) by Kathy Diamond Davis
* Shaping Better On-Leash Behavior
* Stop Lunging Behavior - Two-Dog Exercise
* The Leash - Your Best Protection
* Getting Pulled by Your Dog?
* Fear is Contagious - Don't Telegraph Anxiety to Your Dog
* Warding Off Loose Dogs
* Bicyclists, Skaters, Skateboarders, Joggers
* Walking More Than One Dog at a Time
* Taking an Injured or Newly Disabled Dog in Public

Access this guide at:

Other articles:

Exercise Benefits

Hiking, Camping and Swimming with Your Dog

Playing Indoors with Your Dog

Toys: Choosing the Right Toys, Using Toys for Physical and Mental Stimulation

Take Your Dog Jogging With You by Steve Dale

Jogging with Baby and Dog by Alexandra Allred


Robin's Dog Tips can be used only for nonprofit, educational use.
For more Dog Tips and Pet Tips, see http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/dog_tips.html

Last Updated: April 26, 2018 (LET) PawSupport