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Why & How to Stay Fit With Your Dog

Getting outside with your dog can not only help him stay in shape, but it can also keep you on track, too. If you feel that your pup has been missing out on some much-needed exercise and you’d like to stay on top of your fitness as well, there are some very easy ways to make physical activity with your pet a habit. In addition, it helps to know how beneficial it is for both you and your dog to have this time together. Of course, it’s great exercise, but it’s also wonderful bonding time, a mental escape for both you and your dog, and a massive stress reliever.

Set a Routine

First and foremost, the best way to ensure that you and your dog are staying fit is to set a plan for getting exercise. Most of us are busy, and it can be difficult to get out of the house when you feel like you don’t have a lot of time. However, if you can spare even one afternoon or evening per week, mark it on your calendar and hold yourself to that engagement.

Try to set a goal to do something active with your pup for at least one hour per week, if not more. If you want to break that up into smaller, more manageable chunks of time, that is a good place to start. Although, if you can, do your best to keep a strict timeline of it on your calendar. When things become habit, it will be harder for you to break that appointment. Not to mention, your dog will be looking forward to it as well.

After some time, you may find yourself wanting to make more time than just the hour or weekly rule. This is great bonding time for you and your dog. You’ll likely notice that he is excited to spend this time with you—not just to get outside and be active, but he’s genuinely looking forward to this one-on-one time that you might not have had otherwise. This is a great time to learn a little bit more about your dog. Even if you’ve had your pet for years, you can always learn more about his behavior and personality when you experience new things together.

Lastly, it’s also time for you. When you set aside a few minutes here or an hour there and you stick to that schedule, you’ll probably find that you’re enjoying the time just as much as your dog. This is the perfect time to slow down your busy lifestyle and just enjoy being with your dog and without worrying about much else. It’s a great time to clear your thoughts and decompress after a difficult week. When you use the time in this way, it’ll feel much less like a chore and more like a mental break for both you and your pup.

Get Outdoors

While there are plenty of activities that you can do indoors with your dog, there’s simply nothing like getting out into the wild to calm your mind and get your blood pumping. Many of us have a routine of work and home tasks that need to get done each day. As a result, you may feel that both you and your dog are somewhat stuck in the house most of the day, which can take a toll on your overall mental health. A lack of vitamin D from the sun can make you and your dog feel melancholy or even depressed from time to time. As such, just getting outside, even for a few minutes, can help give you and your pet the literal rays of sunshine you both need in your life.

What’s more, getting outdoors with your dog is actually proven to help relieve stress that many of us feel from our daily work lives. Sometimes, at the end of a long week, you might feel like you’re running on empty. You may feel constantly stressed, defeated, unmotivated, and tired—these are all signs of occupational burnout. Research shows that getting outside into nature and exercising does lower all of these negative effects.

Guess what? Your dog might be feeling some of that, too. Dogs also go through a range of emotions daily and getting outside for some exercise can help them focus their attentions on a positive activity. It can also help them maintain a healthy expression of playfulness and a good temperament in general.

Think Creatively

As you can see here, simply being outdoors is important for both you and your dog, which means you have even more of a reason to schedule in some fitness time with your pup. Now that you know how and why you might want to stay active with your dog, aside from the obvious physical health benefits, it’s time to talk about actual activities that you can do outside with your dog.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the old standby of taking your dog on a walk, but if you’re finding it hard to get motivated because walking is just not stimulating enough, try something a bit more exciting. If running is more your style, you can always sign up for a local race that allows dogs. Camping and hiking are also great options for dogs that are up for it. You can also try an obstacle course that you set up in your backyard or at a dog-friendly park. If you prefer to travel on wheels, have your dog join you for a skateboard ride, rollerblading, or even a bike ride. You can throw a Frisbee with him in the park or have fun with his favorite tennis ball—these are all great ideas that some variety outside of the standard walk.

If you’re ever afraid that your dog might have a health issue that prevents him from exercising, or if you’re not sure of the level of activity that your dog can handle, it’s a smart idea to talk to your vet before introducing him to a new exercise routine. His comfort and ability to keep up with you and easily perform the activity is incredibly important. So, just make sure that you watch his behavior and body language to make sure that he’s not overdoing it. With that being said, enjoy the outdoors with your dog! Both you and your pup will equally benefit from the exercise, bonding time, and mental break that comes along with it.

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