How to Exercise With Your Dog, and Love it

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exercise with your dog

Photo by: Skyler Brady Photography ( used with permission


If I miss my morning workout, everybody knows to give me my space.  I’m a pretty unenjoyable human to be around without my morning adrenaline rush and sweat detox.  Its just part of my DNA, I need to get up and move in some capacity in order to perform throughout the remainder of the day.  There are a lot of people that use exercise as a key to their daily well being, and it yields great results when practiced regularly.

Turns out our furry friends share a similar trait.  Dogs have been bred to perform work for thousands of years.  We count on our dogs to hunt, herd, protect and much more.  The only duty that dogs are not accustomed to is the couch potato.  Being sedentary and indoors is not instinctive for canines.  While domestication of dogs over the course of several decades has made this more commonplace, it still goes against their instinctive nature.  Bottom line, you can exercise with your dog and stimulate both their minds and their bodies.

We live by the motto “Healthy dogs=Healthy Humans.”  If you are concerned enough to care for your pets fitness and nutrition, then you likely spend some time on your own as well.  The key to good exercise for both you and your pet is to have both physical and mental stimulation.  So here are some of our favorite ways to get out and exercise with your dog.

How to exercise with your dog

Leashed Exercise

Leashed exercise is some of the best exercise you can give your dog.  There are several key benefits that leashed exercise offers over “off leash.”  When a dog is leashed they are automatically getting a mental workout as well as a physical workout.  When the leash is on, the dog must understand the requirement to follow the actions of the leader (the leash holder).  This requires the dog to be constantly alert and aware of you as their leader.  This leash behavior will improve the bond between you and your pet and help to establish the proper dominance role.

Also you never know when a situation will arise that could pose danger to your pet such as a speeding car or an aggressive animal.  Having the dog on a leash could be the difference between life or death.  Here are some great examples of leashed exercise:

  • Leashed Walk – Taking a brisk walk outdoors can serve both you and your pet some much needed fresh air and moderate exercise.  Target at least a 15-30 minute walk.
    • Taking a short car ride to a nearby park or trail can provide a new environment to explore and maybe even some social interaction to amplify the experience.
    • New smells can help to further stimulate your dogs tracking skills and other mental capacities.
    • The car ride itself will also add a dimension of mental exercise for your pet.
    • Add a weighted doggy backpack for some additional physical demand.  Your dog will probably enjoy having a task!  Plus, you won’t have to carry your keys or water bottle.
  • Jogging – Taking the leashed walk to the next level, you can begin jogging short or long distance with your dog.
    • Be sure both you and your dog are in proper condition to be able to sustain longer distance.
    • It may be wise to start with short distances and gradually increase as you see fit.
    • Jogging while on a leash maintains the mental stimulation while increasing the physical intensity.  This is a great option for very active and high energy type dogs.

Higher Intensity

Dog Hiking Pack

Photo By: Joe Giordano licensed under CC BY 2.0


If you and your furry friend are in pretty good shape and ready to take on a higher intensity training, there are limitless options for this too.  We like to combine any of our daily workouts (weightlifting and cardio) with some dog friendly movements.  It takes a bit more patience and a well trained dog to pull this off some days, but it can be a ton of fun and really rewarding for you and your dog.  We typically keep these activities leashed when performed in public, but sometimes on our fenced in property we will perform them with our dogs off leash.  Either way these are still great mental and physical activities for both of us.  Here are some great examples:

  • Cardio and Obedience Training - It can be as simple as combining some obedience training with your normal cardio workout.
    • If you are running distance with your dog, stop every 1/2 mile and make your dog perform a few basic commands (sit, shake, lay down, etc).  Treat encouragement is usually helpful.
    • If you are off leash, you can work on “sit and stay”. Make your dog sit and stay at points throughout your run and then command them to catch back up.
    • Combining this extra mental exercise is phenomenal for your dog’s behavior as well as physical work.
  • Trail Hiking – If you and your dog have some good endurance you can try taking on some advanced hiking trails.
    • Be sure you are familiar with the trail so you do not get you or your dog into a dangerous situation in terms of terrain or wilderness encounters.
    • Some of our most enjoyable days have come from simply getting lost in the wilderness with our dogs.  Literally I have been lost for hours in the dead of winter with my pups and it was a blast finding our way back to the trail head.
    • If you are into adventures this can be a great way to bond with your pets and enjoy the outdoors. Oh yea and its a heck of a workout.
  • Hill Sprint Workout – If you can find a decent hill that would be ideal, but flat ground will work too.  Below is the workout (with some modified options).
    • Start by performing the following while commanding your dog to sit and wait:
      • 20 Burpees or (30 second plank hold)
      • 20 Walking lunges
      • 20 Air squats or (30 second squat hold)
    • Sprint or jog (with your dog) to the top of the hill or at least 200 meters.
    • Repeat the movements and run back down the hill. This counts as 1 round.
    • Perform 4 rounds (or scale to you and your dogs level of fitness).

Advanced Exercise

Dogs Surfing

Photo By: Nathan Rupert Licensed Under CC BY 2.0


There are also several types of advanced and more adventurous exercises that your dog can take part in.  These tasks require some higher levels of skill and some require special equipment.  But they are all a ton of fun and really great ways to exercise.

  • Stand Up Paddle boarding (SUP) - You will need a body of calm water and a paddle board for this one, but talk about a fun way to spend the day.
    • This will require some great balance from both you and your dog.
    • Only recommended for those that enjoy the water and are capable swimmers.
    • It may take a good deal of practice but its pretty fun cruising around on a paddle board with your pup out at the front of your board.
  • Biking – We frequently jump on our bikes and ride around town with our dogs.  You should be sure that your dog has good leash training before trying this, as it can be dangerous if you have a larger dog.  We had a few close calls when we first started riding, but now I can take both dogs at the same time without any hiccups.
    • Our dogs are very aware of their proximity to the bike tires, so they are constantly double checking their surrounding and pre-thinking their moves.  This is great mental stimulation.
    • We can cover a ton more ground and keep a nice steady pace, which gets our boys extra tired.

There are tons more activities such as long boarding, surfing, kayaking, boating, rollerblading and the list goes on.  Basically if you are outside and moving you can find a way for your dogs to join in on the fun.

We are strong believers that dogs are part of the family.  And with this belief we like to enjoy life with them.  Seeing a huge slobbery smile on my dog’s face never fails to put me in a good mood.  When we have a week that our dogs get less exercise, their behavior is directly affected.  If your dog is acting out its very possible that they just need some extra physical and mental stimulation.  Let them get back to their roots and do some physical work!  Even if you only have an extra 15-20 minutes, clip on that leash and take a quick jog or stroll, and I promise you will see the benefits.

Let us know your favorite way to exercise with your dog.  Have you seen some noticeable connections between your pet’s activity level and their behavior? Thanks for reading and happy sweating.

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The5Clarks says it all.They are a family of 5 (including their two dogs and a cat of course).Sean has used fitness and nutrition to help battle his chronic Lyme disease, while Mallory specializes in animal health and behavior.Together they make a power couple ready to improve all aspects of family wellness.
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  1. says

    Hah, awesome post! Dogs are indeed amazing at getting you started and motivating you, because if you skip the walk, they suffer!

    I’ve had the same thoughts lately and realized that after I got a dog achieving my fitness goals became A LOT easier:

    We don’t do anything extreme with my dog, just fast pace walking (1h+ is already a good workout if you keep heart rate in proper zone) or sometimes bike in the fields where I let him pull me on the leash a bit, so he gets some exercise too :)
    Dennis recently posted…Why Paleo Recipes Are A ScamMy Profile

  2. says

    I thought hiking and jogging are the only exercises that dogs can participate to but I was amazed to know that they can stand-up paddle board too!


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