Jump! Wiggle! Wag!
Is this you getting ready for a workout? No? Well, it could be – if you and your dog are working out together. Your jumping, wiggling, tail-wagging dog just might be the best workout buddy you will ever have.
Here are 5 reasons why:
1. Health benefits
• A study published in Scientific Reports shows that cardiovascular disease – the leading cause of death worldwide – is reduced in people who own dogs. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-16118-6
• The American Heart Association issued a statement in 2013 saying that dog ownership might be associated with a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIR.0b013e31829201e1
• Dogs can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, according to a Harvard Health Publishing report. A study found that dog owners had lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels than study subjects who didn’t own dogs, and that these differences could not be explained by subjects’ diet, smoking habits, or body mass index (BMI). https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/having-a-dog-can-help-your-heart–literally
Researchers are quick to point out that these studies show no direct cause-and-effect relationship between good health and dog ownership. It may be that people who are naturally active are simply more drawn to dog ownership. But why not give your dog a chance to help you reach your fitness goals?
You don’t have to confine your workouts to walking just because you are with your dog. Dogs are up for many kinds of exercises and activities.
• Hiking: The hills and valleys of an outdoor trail provide a great cardiac workout, and the uneven ground allows you to work muscles in your hips and legs that you don’t normally use. Your dog will love exploring the trails of the great outdoors with you – so many wonderful sights and smells!
• Bicycling: As you ride your bike, your dog can run alongside. Use a bike leash so you still have control over your dog. Biking is best suited for medium to large dogs. Tiny pooches would have to take way too many steps to keep up with the speed of your tires, but they would love to ride with you in a bike basket.
• Swimming: It’s a myth that all dogs are natural swimmers. Some dogs don’t like swimming at all. Dogs will naturally begin to move their legs in a doggy-paddle motion, but that doesn’t mean they can swim. Introduce your pal to the water slowly to see if they take to it and feel safe and comfortable. If they do, you’re ready to do laps!
• The great indoors: If it’s too hot or cold outside, you and your dog can move your workout inside. Run up and down the stairs, or even walk on the treadmill with your dog. (Start the treadmill out slowly and supervise your pet at all times. Do not tie your dog to the treadmill.) Check for pet-friendly gyms and pet fitness centers (where you can join in) in your area. Your dog might not be ready for a Zumba class yet, but you’ll be able to find something you can do together.
• Agility training: Your dog learns to jump hurdles, zigzag around obstacles, and crawl through tunnels as you run alongside. Fun for both of you!
Say you’ve had an exhausting day, and now you want to crash. But just look at those big brown eyes gazing up at you. How can you resist that face? Dogs are a great motivator for people to get out and exercise.
Think about it: Is your dog ever NOT up for a walk? Dogs have joy and boundless enthusiasm for life that is contagious. If you’re having a hard time getting motivated, look to your pup for a little inspiration and companionship.
Maybe you’ve been counting on a human friend to keep you motivated. But when you work out with a pal, you are probably going to have a hard time getting your schedules in sync. With your hectic lives – long hours at the office, dinner with the in-laws, shuttling the kids to soccer practice – when are you and pal going to find free time at the same time? Your dog, on the other hand, has a calendar that is pretty much wide open. She is never going to have a last-minute parent-teacher conference or work event to go to. Your dog isn’t going to stand you up because the cute guy she met at the party asked her out. Your dog is always going to be there for you.
Dogs can be magnets for social interaction. Pets have a way of drawing people in.
When you are out and about with your pup, you might encounter other people with your same interests. You and Fido might make some new friends in the park, on the hiking trail, or at the lake. Of course, take your dog’s preferences into consideration. Not all canines appreciate attention from strangers.
But once you and your dog get to know everyone along your favorite hiking trail or at the dog park, those strangers could soon become friends. And if you have dogs in common, who knows what else you’ll have in common? This could even spark you to become more active yourself – even on those occasions when you want to leave your pup at home to go play baseball with the new human friend you met at the dog park, or to go to a yoga class with the human friend you met while you and your dog were on the hiking trail.
Dogs love routine. Owners will swear that their beloved canine companion can tell time – that Fido knows when it’s time for breakfast, and that Spot knows when it’s time for a walk.
Dog experts disagree on whether this phenomenon occurs, and if it does, how exactly it works. But dog experts do agree that dogs love a routine. So if your dog knows that 10 minutes after you get home from work it’s time for walkies, your dog is going to be waiting for walkies 10 minutes after you get home from work. If you decide you don’t want walkies 10 minutes after you get home from work, your dog is going to look at you as if you have just crushed its entire world. You don’t want that, do you?
Pick a time each day that suits you, and your buddy will soon learn your routine and be ready and waiting to spend time exercising with you.
5. It’s good for your dog, too
Your dog needs the exercise as much as you do. So when you work out with your pup, you are helping them as well as yourself.
Did you know that when it comes to burning calories, your dog is just like you? Well, sort of. Humans and dogs burn about the same amount of energy per pound when walking or running, according to veterinarian Ernie Ward. Dogs shed about 0.8 calories per pound per mile when moving at a brisk pace. Humans expend about 0.73 calories per pound per mile. This matching energy output makes your dog an ideal workout companion. You and your dog also share an ideal pace, Ward says. The speed at which most dogs seem to enjoy walking – about 15 minutes per mile – equals a brisk pace for you. Your dog helps you keep pace. You might have to gently discourage them from stopping to sniff every flower and blade of grass, though. (Let them sniff some. They’re dogs. The love that kind of thing.) http://www.pethealthnetwork.com/dog-health/dog-checkups-preventive-care/5-reasons-why-your-pet-should-be-your-workout-buddy
There are some precautions to take when exercising with your canine best buddy:
• Make sure your dog does not get overexerted. Watch for excessive panting or drooling, and scale down the pace a bit if needed.
• Carry water for you and your dog so you both stay hydrated.
• If it’s too hot or cold outside for you and your buddy to exercise comfortably, search for a suitable indoor activity to share instead.
• Know what kind of activities are suited for the breed. Some breeds are not suited to strenuous physical activity. Breeds that have flat faces can have trouble getting enough air. Short-legged dogs might have trouble keeping up with you.
• Consider your dog’s age and physical condition. If you have any concerns about your pet’s fitness, talk with your veterinarian.
With the right companionship, you too might jump, wiggle, and wag when it’s time to work out.