Whether you’ve decided to get fit to help lose a few pounds or just want to get healthy, you’ve taken the first step by deciding to do something about it. Yay!! Well done. If you are a dog owner like me, then you may not be so keen to spend hours in the gym and leave your pooch at home. That guilt sets in after a while doesn’t it? How to get fit with your dog may well have been the first question that you had after making that New Years Resolution and it’s not always obvious what choices that you have.
I find most people assume that with the exception of walking and running, that their options are limited. I was one of those dog owners at the start of 2016 ready to get on a health kick but wanting to involve Mille in that too. While I’ve included both walking and running in the 9 ideas below, I’ve also pulled together a wider range of options to get you started. Why not give each one a go or try different activities throughout the year to fit with the different seasons.
I’d love to hear if you have a favourite or decide to give one of them a go. Just let me know in the comments.
How to Get Fit With Your Dog and Have Fun Too!
How often do you currently walk your dog? Do you know the distance and the pace that you walk at?
Walking is a fantastic place to start when increasing your exercise. You want to start simple and set a target for a set number of steps per day. Wearing a pedometer or using one of the smartwatches will help up your exercise and I found that setting a small target with extra long walks at the weekend helped me beat some of those January blues too!
Estimated Cost to get started – zero! Make sure you wrap up warm on those winter days and have some decent walking shoes, boots or trainers.
Millie’s Verdict – I love sniffing new places and getting out for extra long walks. There is something about heading out on a Sunday for a few hours somewhere new. Oh and if it’s raining – even better. I love the woods full of fresh smells in the rain. I always seem to find new friends to say hi too!
You can’t look at a health blog with ideas of low-cost exercise without running being high on their suggested list.
If you are restricted to road running then you’ll need to get comfortable with running with your dog on lead or progress to Canicross below which will help avoid any lead mishaps! If you have an energetic dog like Millie, there is a high likelihood they may get bored or spot something and swerve off the trail. So do be prepared!
Why not set yourself a target by registering for a race during 2017. Or perhaps join your local Park Run? You’ll find most Park Runs allow dogs though ask for them to be on a lead or the shorter 3m Canicross bungee.
Estimated Cost to get started – a good pair of running shoes and possible some warmer winter layers and you are set.
Millie’s Verdict – did someone say run? Let’s go! I prefer off the lead and treat it like a game. Mum’s chasing me and she can’t catch. Ha ha!!
Cani what I hear you say? I know, I’d never heard of it either until the end of 2015. I was lucky enough to find a ‘couch 2 5k’ class where I lived at the time near Surrey.
If you already do some running, then this would be a great way to increase your distance, learn how to run safer with your dog and meet new friends too.
I’d strongly recommend getting to know if there is a club around you as it’s a fab social activity. I know Millie ‘pulled’ better when out with other dogs and it also helped her understand what was expected, after years of training not to pull on a lead.
The great new is that there is a local club – Dundee and Angus Canicross who do regular meet ups and attend races. They seem more than friendly so I’m looking forward to popping along to one of their sessions in the New Year.
You can read about my first time out Canicrossing with Millie and the 5 reasons why you should try it in a previous blog – HERE.
Estimated Cost to get started – assuming you already have some running kit then zero! Most clubs allow you to borrow the dogs kit while you try it out but as you’ll be running offroad, I’d suggest buying a good pair of trail shoes. If you decide to continue, you’ll then find you spend between £30 to £100 for basic kit (harness and bungee line).
Millie’s Verdict – I hate a harness. I really do, even if it is in my favourite colour pink. But when I see all my friends arrive for a run, then I’m off. The fab news is that we tend to head out to places where I can have a dip in a lake and run off lead in-between our run sections. I also get one very big treat after a long run before a huge snooze. Mum says it can look like I’m running in my sleep. I don’t believe her. I’m way too cool for that.
Bikejoring is riding a bike with dogs pulling you though you could use a scooter instead of a bike. Sounds a little bit scary but looks amazing and it’s clear that dogs love it!
I’ve found this great youtube video which shows you the basic equipment that you’ll need, aswell as bikejoring itself.
You’ll need a good mountain bike (bikejoring is done off road) and all the basic mountain biking basics including a bike crash helmet!
Estimated Cost to get started – along with your mountain bike and kit for you, you’ll need a bikejor ‘arm’ for your bike along with a harness and bungee line for your dog too (just like Canicross above). Approx £60 to £140 excluding mountain bike and personal kit.
Millie’s Verdict – me, running alongside a bike. I don’t think so. But then again I’m a little anxious around bikes. Mum says we’re going to give it a go now we’re used to Canicross though. I’m wondering if she’s going to get a pink bike to match my harness.
#5 Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP)
A popular and growing sport during 2016, so firmly on the must try list for 2017. Yes of course, with Millie too!
Having researched Paddleboarding a lot recently, I know there are lots of things to consider:
- suncream and ensuring Millie won’t get too cold
- whether she’ll respond to commands and keep us both safe
- I have a funny feeling Millie is going to move around a lot and so it will increase the length of time that it takes me to master paddleboarding (I’m expecting to be frustrated very early with myself!)
- Wee and Poo stops. I need to make sure I understand when Millie has to go!
Estimated Cost to get started – you may be able to hire a paddleboard as part of a class. Give your local watersports school a call and see if they also run classes suitable for dogs too. Basic classes can start at around £30.
Millie’s Verdict – Wait a minute. I get to potentially make mum fall over into the water and spend time out on the water. I’m not waiting for her too book, this is going to be great fun (though I know I’m not going to like that lifejacket!).
Not all dogs love the water but, if they do, Kayaking may be a fab chance for you to get fit along with your dog.
As with paddleboarding, you do need to consider whether Kayaking is suitable for your dog or what you could do to help them prepare and enjoy their time out too.
Estimated Cost to get started – if you already have a suitable kayak and it will sustain the weight and size your own dog wait then yay! All you’ll need is a lifejacket which you can buy around £20 to £40 (for e.g. Outward Hound Kyjen 22020 Ripstop Dog Life Jacket Quick Release Easy-Fit Adjustable Dog Life Preserver, Medium, Orange). Otherwise given a Kayak and transport can be expensive do search for a local class to give it a try first. Circa £30 upwards.
Millie’s Verdict – Did someone say water!!! I LURVE WATER!!!!!!!!!!!!! Can I try, please? Though I’m not sure I’ll be able to stay in the Kayak. Way too much fun swimming.
#7 Dog Agility
You may think dog agility is all about your dog but you’ll be surprised how much ground you will also cover in a class. As your dog improves and you start to focus on time, you’ll be speeding round that agility course too, trying to keep up!
You’ll find most clubs offer a fun version of agility along with the more professional competition variety too.
I took some time out at Discover Dogs to watch the competitive agility sessions. So impressive and so many different types of dogs and owners competing too. Don’t think it’s all about collies and spaniels, your dog may surprise you!
Estimated Cost to get started – you can buy your own equipment starting from around £20 upwards with classes tending to start from £5 per session depending on locality.
Millie’s Verdict – Looks easy doesn’t it? Sautner around a course and I get lots of treats to encourage me. But no! I have to think lots, work out what I’m meant to do and I’m mentally exhausted by the end of it. I love the a-frame and tunnels though – I even hit the markers at the start and end which results in more treats! Mum gives me lots of my favourite liver treats when I start to look a little bored or tired too! And shhhh don’t tell her, but I always get to head to the woods after a class too for a good run off-lead. I can’t wait till we start a new class now we are back in Scotland.
#8 Heelwork to Music – Dancing!
Do you remember Ashleigh and Pudsey from Britain’s Got Talent? I loved their winning routine, Mission Impossible, from the final of Britain’s Got Talent in 2012. Well, that routine was a form of heelwork to music or freestyle for those that like to keep true to the competition requirements and technical terms!
Heelwork to Music is based on the sport of canine obediences and it uses the heelwork elements of that sport. Your dog will need to walk in one of 8 prescribed heelwork positions and the handler will choreograph that to a piece of music.
You’ll need lots of patience but you’ll be surprised at how many steps you’ll rack up while training too!
For those who are intrigued, Heelwork to Music is where a dog must be in a heelwork position for 65% of the routine, whereas in Freestyle they are only allowed to be at heel for up to 35% of the time. The rest of the routine is made up of a series of moves that demonstrate the music, either the wording, phrasing, rhythm or theme.
I recently watched the Southern Golden Retriever Team who drew fab crowds at Discover Dogs. I took this short clip so that you could see them in action. You cant’ help but keep watching!
Estimated Cost to get started – you could do this at home with some music and choreograph your own routine. Though you may find it beneficial and fun to join a Heelwork to Music class from around £8 upwards.
Millie’s Verdict – with the right music (and treats), I think I could be persuaded and expand my trick range. I like showing off after all. No silly outfits though mum. I’m a cool gundog remember!
#9 Doga (Dog Yoga)
Now I know you may think I’ve gone a little mad but I promise you this is a ‘thing’!!
Mahny Djahanguiri is the Doga Expert which like most dog activities, gained popularity in America before reaching the UK. In short, the idea behind Doga is for you and your dog to bond through a series of breathing and tantric exercises. Doga is all about nurturing the relationship with your dog, and both dog and owner relaxing.
Estimated Cost to get started – there are lots of youtube videos online and great blog resources or you could opt to try and find a local class. All you really need is you and your dog but you may prefer to start with guidance via Mahny’s book – Doga: Yoga for you and your dog
Millie’s Verdict – Hmm, I love a good stretch, int the morning before I start begging for a morning run BUT not sure how I’d feel if mum wanted to swap a walk for doga. Maybe I could be persuaded with a LOT of treats though can we try Stand Up Paddleboarding first, please?
If you haven’t yet spotted something that you’d enjoy in the above list, I’d recommend heading along to one of the several Country Show and Dog Shows that take place across the UK. You’ll find lots of demonstrations and other dog owners who can give you advice.
One of the largest shows in Scotland is the Scottish Kennel Club Championship Show which takes place in May each year. I look forward to attending in 2017 for the first time. Maybe see you there?
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