Forming Healthy Exercise Habits with Your Dog

Krista Wickens Thumbnail
Including Your Pet in Your WorkoutThis eager, smiling face can help
kick-start your workout plan.

A habit, from the standpoint of a dog, is more or less a routine of behavior. It comes very easily to dogs. They are masters at identifying subtle cues that tell them how to behave. They also have unbelievable internal clocks. Routines for dogs generally revolve around three things: food, exercise and sleep. Food and sleep are probably the easiest routines for us, their people, to establish. Exercise… a little harder.

Exercise plays such a big role in your dog’s behavior and overall well-being. Without it they can become depressed, anxious and unhealthy. Exercise feeds the brain with oxygen and floods the body with feel-good endorphins that give us a zest for life and energy to tackle the unknown.

You already have the best and most loyal workout buddy, so how do you eliminate exercise excuses and form good habits with your dog?

1) Set a Goal

Write out exercise goals for you and your pet for the week, month, and year. Put them on your mirror or refrigerator so you will see them several times a day. Be honest with yourself. Set goals that are achievable to establish success. Use your small successes to launch loftier goals. No matter how big or small, make every movement count.

2) Set a Time

There are many studies that have been done regarding workout time and the evidence overwhelmingly indicates that workouts scheduled in the morning, before our day starts, are more consistent. Plus, it jump starts your metabolism – and your dog's – so you both will burn more calories throughout the day. Start by setting your alarm 15 minutes early and work up to 40 minutes or an hour before you start your regular morning routine. Lay out the leash, shoes and workout clothes the night before. Not a morning person? That’s okay. Just make sure you don’t give in to distractions.

3) Pick an Activity

Choose an activity that you and your dog will enjoy that increases heart rate. A walk or run can be made fun with a few obstacles or obedience drills thrown in to mix it up. If you can’t get outside, there are tools to exercise indoors too. The key is to MAKE IT FUN!! Don’t feel like you have to stick to traditional exercise parameters.

4) Track It

Record keeping is an effective means for maintaining consistent training. Even more motivational is routinely reviewing your progress. Use a journal to write down distance, time, activity, weather, mood, how your dog responded, food, etc. Reviewing your training logs will help you see if you are moving forward or falling back. It will also help you identify any underlying issues or plateaus that you see developing.

As with any exercise program, motivation is an important aspect. If you are having trouble staying motivated and the whack, whack of a thumping tail is not enough to get you out the door – then consider enlisting the help of other dog-loving friends and schedule a group meet up.

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