Exercise with Your Dog: Burn Calories While Your Dog Plays Fetch!

It's early in the New Year, and no doubt many have vowed to exercise and get into shape. But do you look at your dog and feel guilty that you're working out instead of playing with him? How about incorporating your dog into a cardio, calorie-burning workout? Sure, you could just go running or biking with your dog. Or you could use your workout to work on your dog's down-stay, come when called, and to play fetch. With the help of Igor Seriba, instructor at Hideshi's FitnessGarage, I"ll introduce you to a fun cardio workout, that includes speed and agility for you, that you can do while training and playing with your dog.

How Does the Dog Work Into the Exercise Routine?

For this set of outdoor exercises, you will simultaneously work on the down-stay exercise for your dog or playing fetch, or alternating between the two. For instance, you can have your dog lying down while you exercise and reward him frequently enough so he stays in a down-stay, or you can play fetch and get as many repetitions in while he's running. In some exercises, you'll even build up distance while your dog is in a down-stay and then practice a come when called.

One benefit to incorporating your exercise into your dog's training is that you turn the most boring dog-training exercise ever -- the down-stay -- into a fun routine. Let's face it, having your dog lie down while you stand around and watch the clock to make sure he can stay lying down long enough is more irritating than standing in line to return holiday presents.

Practicing a down-stay at a distance is even worse. You have to have your dog lie down, walk away to whatever distance you're practicing (such as 5-30 feet), and then come back and reward him while he's still lying down. You can't just call him to come to you, because then you're rewarding him for a come when called, not a down-stay. Now, if you can exercise during the segments where you'd just be waiting around or if you can exercise on your way out and back from your dog's lying spot, suddenly you're making good use of that time.
You'll also be playing fetch with your dog during your rest period between high intensity intervals.

What You Need

This workout is simple. You'll just need your dog's 6-foot leash, a safe area for your dog to play fetch or be off leash, and your dog's treats. I use my dog's daily allotment of kibble for treats. That way his diet is still balanced and he stays trim.

The General Approach

This workout will be high intensity, so you should warm up first and stretch while you work on an easier set of down-stay exercises with your dog. (See: "Working Out With Your Dog: Quick Outdoor Warm-Up Exercises for You and Your Dog"). For each exercise, you'll start with your dog in a down-stay; make sure you get treats to him frequently enough so he remains lying down. Get the reward to him quickly and low enough so that you don't accidentally lure him to stand.

The first exercises are a set of four speed and agility exercise that involve your dog's leash, which will be lying on the ground. You'll perform three sets of five repetitions per exercise with 30, 45, and 60 seconds of rest in between each set. Take the rest time to play fetch with your dog.

The final two exercises will be even higher intensity. You'll perform three sets of three repetitions per exercise with 30 seconds of rest during the first break, 60 seconds during the second, and 90 seconds between exercises one and two. Rest sessions are your dog's chance to play fetch. You'll also work a come when called into these exercises.


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Positively Expert: Sophia Yin

Dr. Yin is an internationally-acclaimed veterinarian and applied animal behaviorist who lectures and teaches workshops to dog trainers, shelter workers, and veterinary staff, and is the author of three books including a veterinary textbook and DVD set on behavior. Her "pet-friendly" techniques have set the standard of care for veterinarians.


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