Workouts for You--and Fido, Too!

The obesity epidemic isn't just apparent on the streets of America's small towns and cities. Check out any veterinary clinic, and you will see that the numbers are rising in the canine and feline worlds, as well. The Association of Pet Obesity Prevention reports that 52% of dogs are obese or overweight--so it seems that getting Fido off the sofa is a good idea. Pets need activity for the same reasons we do: better sleep, weight control, increased energy and better moods. But when it's hard enough to find time to meet your own fitness needs, how can you possibly find time to schedule exercise for your pet, too?

Go for a Run. While walking your dog every day is good exercise, you can take your cardio training up a notch by learning how to run with your pet. You can even train together for special dog/owner races that take place all over the country. Some are even set up to be fundraisers for dog rescues and other pet-focused nonprofits.

Take an Agility Class. Dog agility classes are perfect for pets that have done well in basic obedience and are ready to go to the next level. Agility not only requires your pet to follow your commands but to be able to run a complicated obstacle course. You'll be running too, encouraging your pet and giving commands, so you'll get a workout, too. The United States Dog Agility Association offers links to local agility groups and classes.

Take a Hike. If your dog isn't quite up for a run, he still might be interested in a long, challenging hike. Depending on the steepness of the terrain, hiking can burn up to 400 calories an hour! Just make sure you choose a dog-friendly trail and bring plenty of water and bags to clean up after your pet.

Try Biking or Rollerblading. With the right leash, it's not difficult to train a very active dog to run alongside you as you bike or rollerblade. Using a hands-free option will make it easier for you to get a workout without worrying about losing control of your pet.

Sign Up for a K9 Fit Club Class. K9 Fit Club classes are popping up all over the country. These classes offer a workout for both you and your pet, but are also a chance to work on training behaviors. All instructors are certified in human/canine fitness, but be sure to ask about dog obedience expectations, level of intensity and if there are any dog weight/height requirements. Class workouts are good for all ages and fitness levels, from Begging for Beginner®, Bow Wow Bootcamp® to NamaSitStay™ and include cardio, strength training, plyometrics and flexibility for both pooch and participant. K9 Fit Club also holds special needs classes in some locations. See if there is a K9 Fit Club location near you. You can also search "dog and owner fitness classes" online to find similar programs in your area.

Take Your Dog to the Gym. You've seen take-your-child-to-work days. Now take-your-dog-to-the-health-club days are becoming more popular. Many fitness studios and park districts are offering "Dog Yoga" classes, too, especially for smaller breed dogs. Although your dogs won't be doing many downward dogs on demand, they will be incorporated into the poses to offer you a fun, unique challenge. Check with local gyms and yoga studios in your area to see whether they offer any dog-friendly programs.  

Play Fetch. An active game of fetch at the dog park can be good exercise for both of you if you put some effort into your end of the game. When your dog returns the ball to you, play intervals of keep-away where you run short distances and encourage your pet to follow. There are many toys available to help your pet exercise with you.

If you're just getting started taking your pet with you when you work out, you should start slowly and allow your pooch to build strength and stamina over time. Follow your pet's lead and let him take breaks when he gets tired. Make sure to bring water for both of you, especially if it's going to be warm outside. If you're not sure the activity you're considering is appropriate for your pet, check with your vet to be on the safe side. Exercising with your dog is a great way to guarantee you'll always have a fitness buddy who's ready to go and will never cancel at the last minute!