I love finding new and creative ways to exercise, and it’s even better if I can do it with my furry friend. Hamlet and I regularly go kayaking, hiking, and swimming. I try to get him to do doga (more or less unsuccessfully), and we run and play soccer. Having done all of this, there are certain precautions one should take with all of these exercises, to ensure both you and your dog have the most productive and fun workout!
Kayaking works your arms, shoulders, lower back, and abs. When kayaking with your dog, be sure to make them wear a life jacket, as they may not enjoy staying on the kayak for the entire time. I highly suggest wearing a human life jacket as well! Hamlet regularly jumps off the kayak, swimming behind me until he gets tired and wants to climb back on. If not for the straps on his lifejacket, I would never be able to lift him out of the water to allow him a short break. The added weight of your dog bumps up the exercise, and hauling 75 pounds out of the water again and again isn’t too bad for your arms either! I try to stay near the river bank when kayaking with Hamlet, because it allows him a chance to run around, sniff, and go to the bathroom if need be.
Hiking with your dog is a great way to commune with nature, breathe in some seriously fresh air, all while working the legs, lower back, and abs! Bringing water is of utmost importance, and having a foldable water bowl is perfect for giving your pup a drink. Always wear a hat and sunscreen to protect your skin, and use a leash if your dog is the type to run after anything that moves! Bring treats for your dog and yourself, and have fun exploring the beauty of nature.
Soccer with your dog is pure fun! Play keep away, chase, practice your dexterity, and get your heart pumping. I really love the challenge of racing Hamlet to the ball (he wins until he’s tired), and he is always up for a game. This will tone your legs, build stamina, and help you run faster. It can be difficult to get your dog’s mouth off the ball, but you can gently tap it with your foot, or remove it with your hands to keep the game going smoothly. If you have a smaller dog, I would highly recommend getting a child’s size (or smaller) soccer ball–Hamlet’s favorite part is to run around with the ball in his mouth, so I think it’s fair to say a smaller dog would enjoy it as well. Bring water for you both, as you will most certainly need it!
It took Hamlet about a week to get over his fear of natural water. I would pick him up and carry him into the river, only to have him swim frantically for the shore. Now acclimated, it has been near impossible to stop him from jumping in any body of water he sees! Hamlet is a very strong swimmer, and has gone downriver for over 4 hours while on a tubing expedition. However, I still make him wear a life jacket because there are spots where the current may be strong, and I would much rather be safe than sorry when it comes down to it. If you are swimming with your dog for exercise, wearing goggles and a swim cap will ensure streamlining, and it’s much more fun to swim when you can see! Swimming is a full body workout, and is absolutely my favorite exercise as I’ve been on swim teams since the ripe age of nine. You can use a kick board if you want to focus on using your legs, or a pull buoy if you wish to strengthen your arm muscles. A comfortable swimsuit is probably the most important piece of equipment I can recommend, and I really love having a one piece, because it stays on and there are no “accidents.” 😉 Access to clean fresh water is a must for both you and your dog, because swimming is very draining! Hamlet usually drinks straight out of the river (bring water for your dog if you are swimming in the ocean), and I will bring my Berkey Sport water bottle, which filters any water of 99.99% of most contaminants.
(Savasana is the only pose Ham knows)
Doga is quickly gaining popularity, and is offered as a class in many large cities. I have tried to get Hamlet to do doga with me, but the best I can come up with is to get him to be a stabilizer for harder standing poses (he just wants to be in my face all the time, especially when I’m practicing yoga). I have seen some owners getting their dogs to go into downward dog, roll out of savasana, and use smaller dogs as a weight for some poses. If there is a doga class near you, please give it a try, it seems like a wonderful way to bond with your dog and get a really great workout in!
Do you like to exercise with your dog?
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Photo: Jessica Ferguson