Home Podcast TOP #47: Exciting Ways to Get Active With Your Dog

TOP #47: Exciting Ways to Get Active With Your Dog

Spring is in full swing now and you're likely looking for opportunities to get outside with your dog, especially if you live a state with warmer climate. If you're in a place like Maine, where I live, winters can be particularly long and going outdoors with my dogs can be a challenge sometimes.

I cherish those opportunities of spending more time outside of home with my dogs, and we especially love hiking, but I know it's not for everybody. Therefore, I decided to brainstorm a little and make a solo podcast episode with some ideas for exciting ways you can get active with your pooch and shed some of that winter fat. Tune in if you're looking for inspiration on how to exercise with your dogs other than regular walks and playtime.

Listen to the episode in the video above and find the full podcast transcript below. For more, visit this episode’s post on the official Theory of Pets website.

Exciting Ways to Get Active With Your Dog
(podcast transcript)

Exciting Ways to Get Active With Your Dog

Hey guys, I hope where you are it feels like spring today. It is a balmy 37 degrees where I live in Maine which is not good for anything. It's too cold to go outside but the snow is melting and everything is all muddy so I hope you live somewhere where it's warm and you can get out and enjoy the sunshine and the outdoors with your pet. Spring is coming I am told, the weather man keeps telling us that spring is on its way here in Maine. So, I'm thinking spring that's me, I'm always an optimistic and I'm thinking spring with my dogs we have had such a long winter, we got tons of snow here in Maine, we had some brutally cold days, it was too cold to go outside.

So, I've noticed that my dogs have packed on a few extra pounds, I noticed that I have packed on a few extra pounds and I've been thinking about ways to get out and be active with my girls. We have a chocolate Labrador named CD and we also have a little beagle cocker spaniel mix named Molly. We are avid hikers and we do a lot of hiking with our dogs in the summertime, the spring, in the fall as well.

I wanted to think of today this morning as kind of brainstorming about other ways to get exercise with my dogs and I thought you know what? This is a great topic for a podcast because I'm sure that a lot of you have been cooped up, you kind of have the winter blues, it's time for spring, we're all getting really excited for it. So, let's talk about the different ways to engage your dog, get them active, keep yourself active without having to really go out of your way. You know that's the biggest thing that I hear from a lot of pet owners is that I just don't have the time.

One of the things that I always say is you know you make the time to walk your dog every day, most people do or if you have a lot of property you make the time to take your dog outside and you know make sure that he goes to the bathroom. The easiest thing you can do is just extend that time, take a little longer walk, spend a little more time outside in the yard. It shouldn't take a whole lot of effort to rearrange your schedule and get an extra 10 minutes here or 20 minutes in your day in the grand scheme of things.

Move your schedule around, do whatever you need to do, get that extra 10 minutes and spend it with your dog. 1- it will foster that bond that you have, it's going to make him happy, it's going to make you happy. Getting outside. It's a proven scientific fact that being outside in the outdoors, in the sunshine is a mood booster, it's a mood booster to be around your pets.

You know, take that time, spend it with your dog, what could be better than that you know? Some people even maybe you're listening and you have a cat that you take for a walk, I have seen it many times cats on a lease, spend the extra 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes you know play with them, engage them in the yard if that's what you do or you know if you take those daily walks just extend it a few minutes longer on each side and you know you're going to end up spending that time, doing something probably not very productive anyway throughout the course of the day. So, whether you know drink your morning coffee a little bit faster or you decide to spend a little bit last time on your cell phone, playing a game, whatever it might be, less time on social media. You know take those 10, 15, 20 minutes and just extend your activity with your dog.

Another great way to foster the bond between the two of you and one of the things that I am so looking forward to doing is using your dog as a training partner. And this is so easy, it's so hard to find the motivation sometimes to exercise. What better motivator than your dog? What better training partner than your dog? They're always excited to be around you, they're always excited to go and play and run or do any kind of exercise with you. It makes them happy so of course that's going to motivate you if your exercise partner is motivated to do things and they're happy and they're excited, you're going to feed on that and that's going to be great.

There are tons of things that you can do with your dogs, a lot of people you know will just run, walk, jog, bike ride, whatever you know you would do anyway normally. But there's other things too if you want to try something brand new there's tons of sports that dogs can participate in, that you can help your dog participate in. Things like agility, dock diving if you live somewhere near the water that's a popular thing in the spring, summer and fall. Another great thing is that's becoming more and more popular is called doga and its yoga with your dog.

It's great again to foster that bond but it's also really great because you know it's a great exercise for you and your body and your overall health and well-being and if you can bring your dog into that of course that's a win-win for everybody. Another thing that I love doing like I said it's pretty chilly here still but if you live somewhere where the water is warmed up get in the water with your dog. Dogs love to swim, swimming is a great overall exercise for humans as well. If you're not big into swimming there's so much stuff you can do on the water with dogs. I have seen dogs riding kayaks and canoes, I've seen dogs on paddle boards, there's a lot of ways to interact with your dog and involve the water. I know I love the water, I love being around the water, diving is a great thing to do with dogs.

If you don't necessarily want to get in the water yourself just walk, be near the water, you know let your dog go swimming maybe throw a floating toy out there for him to fetch. Water is a great place to go with the dog, usually Mossads like water not all of them. If your dog doesn't like the water or if you aren’t a big fan of the water yourself look for some stairs. A lot of communities have stairs and stair running is really great if there is maybe a stadium in your area that allows people to exercise on the stairs, a lot of communities will have stair cases you know up hills and things like that outside. So, you can do that. Don't overdo it on the stairs, that's a big thing; don't exert yourself, not a lot of running or anything like that, just walking up and down the stairs is a great exercise.

Another great way to engage and interact with your dog this time of year is to play some games with him, make him work for treats or a toy, whatever his favorite thing is. You can play games to 1- it engages your dog and keeps him from being bored, it's mentally and physically stimulating for him, it's also fun for you. I love playing hide and seek with my dogs, they are really good at our Beagle obviously she's got a very good nose, our Labrador as well. So, nose works really well for them I hide treats and they can find them. If you start small you know start with something easy. Do a little bit of research on nose work with dogs.

I've actually written an article on our sister site about nose work for dogs. And it's pretty simple, you start out you know let your dog see where you're putting the treat or the toy under a box or behind something you know let him see it and then he'll seek it out and then you can reward him for doing that and then you just get harder and harder. You can start inside where there's not a whole lot of activity going on or anything that's going to distract him, different smells things like that and as he gets better at it you can work your way up to going outside. For me that's kind of where we're at right now in the spring, we're doing things inside and so as soon as the weather gets better we'll move outside.

There are some other great games to play too that a lot of pet owners find really enjoyable with their dogs. Fetch obviously is great, tug of war, you can play brain games like hide and seek as I mentioned. There are a lot of games that dogs really excel at, some breeds especially like frisbee, as I said you know dock diving. There are certain sports that dogs are really good at, agility. If you don't have anything in your area some dog parks have some agility equipment and that's great. But if you don't you can make your own agility equipment for dogs, there's some fantastic DIY tutorials online, YouTube has a bunch.

You can buy some really inexpensive stuff as well if you're not into the DIY thing. So, agility is one of the things that we love doing it's as much fun for me to be honest with you as it is for my dogs. Not only is it fun for me because I'm engaging and interacting with them and it's just fun to see them do different things but I try to get creative with that. I try to see what my girls can do and I love that, I love experimenting with the differences between the two dogs. Our little Beagle she's smaller obviously than our Lab but she can jump higher and she's actually really speedy.

So, seeing the differences between my two dogs, trying to figure out ways to harness both of their strength and work with them to maybe help them with some of their weaknesses it's really…. I don't know, I don't know what the word is, not productive but it's really engaging I guess for me and it is productive. I feel like we're doing something, we're not just wasting our time you know hanging around inside or we’re not just going on a plain old walk that you know is going to get boring for all of us after a while walking the same route over and over but it's something that really stimulates me and the dogs both mentally and physically. I get out there in the yard with them you know it gives me some motivation I guess thinking about we have to go for another walk again, you're walking on the same road or the same street, the same side walk, the same hiking trail that you go on every day you know that sometimes isn't all that motivating especially when the weather's not really nice.

But you know if you have something like agility, you've been working on things, you want to test things, try things, be creative with it you know that’s something that never gets old for me. I've gotten into agility with multiple dogs that we've had in the past and every dog’s different so it's always an adventure you know every time we get a new dog. But even you know dogs that I've had for 8 and 10 years we're doing new things all the time, that old saying “you can't teach old dogs new tricks” is not always the truth. So, keep that in mind especially when it comes to agility.

And the other thing that I wanted to mention too, that's a great way to get some extra exercise size and burn off some of that winter weight is just socializing. Get out and socialize whether you know there are so many places now, public places that allow dogs. So, whether you go to a public park, you go on a hiking trail, you might go to a dog park, you might go to you know a local restaurant or shopping center that allows dogs you know that's a great way to get out and you know that's engaging as well for you and your dog. You’re socializing with the owners, there’re socializing with dogs and that's a great way obviously to get out and about and be active. It's a nice way to kind of wear off those winter blues, you can meet some new people or your dog can meet some new people.

This is especially great if you are traveling and you want to maybe just you know you don't know anybody and you want to maybe meet somebody to hang it and spend some time with so you're not all on your own. Or if you have recently relocated to an area you know dogs can be a great conversation starter. If you're out walking around somewhere where there's other dog owners odds are when your dog matches up with a dog and they start playing or you know you walk by a pet owner and they compliment you on your dog or you compliment them on their dogs it's really easy to get a conversation started like that. So, that's another thing and I always recommend to pet owners you know it's spring it's time for new things, new adventures, get out there find things that you like to do, find things that your dog likes to do.

The other thing that I always talk about when I talk about exercising with your dog is to know your dog and your dog’s limits. You know I mentioned agility and that's a really good example because there are different activities that you can do as in the agility field whether your dog’s young, old, big, small it doesn't matter but you need to care the activities to your dog’s needs. So, my girls like I said we love to go hiking, our chocolate Lab will be 3 in June, Beagle mix just turn 2, they’re really young, they're both very active, they're both in great health they don't have any kind of you know hip or joint or bone issues that we worry about with them going on long hikes.

So, it's not an issue for us but for some people you know for some pets out there it's just not going to be feasible to go you know hiking for 4 or 5 miles, it's not going to be feasible to have a challenging agility course in your backyard – dock jumping, catching a frisbee that kind of stuff. It might not be something that your dog is interested and you know if your dog isn't a big fetcher, every dog loves to walk, they love sniffing, they love you know checking out new things so maybe that's more your dog's speed and that's where you have to match him you know.

I think a lot of us we try to get dogs that match our lifestyle and our personality but for example you know we have, me and my husband are both in our 30’s, we have young children, we have 2 young dogs right now, 2 young and very active dogs that mesh very nicely with our family. But in 10 years we're going to have 2 old dogs, my husband and I are going to be in our 40’s, we're still going to have you know kids that are teenagers and we're still hoping, hopefully, obviously will be active and healthy and we’ll all want to get out and do things but you know when you have a dog that's older sometimes you have to cater to what they need. And so maybe you're still capable of hiking 10 miles in a day but your dog might not be so, take his needs into consideration.

If you do have questions or concerns maybe about his physical ability, his health, is you know for example a short hike going to be okay for your dog with arthritis, talk to your veterinarian about it – they'll know your dog’s specific case and then they'll know whether it's going to be a good thing for your pet, agility you know things like that. If you're thinking about being competitive and something like agility or dock diving it's always best to have your dog checked out by a veterinarian before you know really get too seriously into it.

So, keep your dog in mind too, like I said I know I've packed on winter weight, I'm ready to get out there, I'm ready to get active but I have to think of my dogs too and the same goes for all of us. Even though you might be ready to get out and about and really hit the ground running with you know either weight loss or a goal to be healthier or you know you just want to be out in the summer sun that's all great but just keep your dog in mind. Of course, right now it's spring, so we're not thinking about super high temperatures but it will be very long before we are and keep that in mind as well.

The weather always plays a factor when your exercising with your dog, if it's too hot it's not going to be comfortable for your dog, you can sweat you, can drink water, you can eat a popsicle, you can do lots of things to cool off. Dogs don't have that same ability, they can overheat very easily so be paying attention when the weather gets warmer. The other thing you want to do is just check the forecast and make sure there's no rain or anything like that that's going to ruin your adventure wherever it might be.

PREVIOUS PODCAST: TOP #46 – Dealing With Dog Training Problems

Samantha’s biggest passion in life is spending time with her Boxer dogs. After she rescued her first Boxer in 2004, Samantha fell in love with the breed and has continued to rescue three other Boxers since then. She enjoys hiking and swimming with her Boxers, Maddie and Chloe.