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San Diego Humane Society

Exercising With Your Dog

Exercise helps you stay fit and active — and also yields a multitude of health benefits for your pup too! Exercising with your dog helps them maintain a healthy weight, keeps their joints and muscles strong and improves their cardiovascular system. Not to mention, exercise also works wonders on your dog’s overall mental health — because what dog doesn’t love outdoor playtime?!

Like humans, every dog’s physical abilities and limitations are different. Thus, tailoring your workout to your dog’s needs is crucial. For example, a dog with arthritis or hip dysplasia may experience discomfort during a long run. So before you begin an exercise routine with your dog, check with your veterinarian.

Once you know which exercise is best for you and your pup, here are a few safety tips to keep in mind:

  1. When running, walking or hiking with your dog, always keep them on a leash. Even the most well-mannered dogs can sometimes get sidetracked by exciting or potentially dangerous distractions.
  2. Always provide plenty of fresh water for your dog. This is especially important for hot days. If your dog is fair-skinned, you may want to consider protecting them with a doggie sunscreen.
  3. If your dog is new to exercise, start slowly. Allow for warm-up and cool-down times. This is especially important for young dogs who are still growing! Sometimes heavy exercise routines, such as long runs can be tough on growing joints. It is best to discuss exercise routines with your veterinarian if you have any concerns about how it might impact your puppy’s growth and development — and remember, larger breeds grow for up to 24 months.
  4. If you’re going on a long run or walk with your dog, try to keep your dog on dirt or grass the majority of the time, so they won’t burn or excessively wear down the pads of their feet.
  5. Know your dog’s limits (and yours!) and try not to overextend yourselves.
  6. After exercising outdoors, examine your dog’s coat and pads for foxtails, burs, sores or anything else unusual.

A good rule of thumb for beginning an exercise program with your dog is to start with 30 minutes of physical activity, three times a week. Dogs love routine, so establishing a set time and place will help your dog look forward to their exercise time!

Keep in mind that exercise can tire a dog out or rile them up. This varies by individual, energy levels and context. For some dogs, a combination of physical exercise and mentally stimulating enrichment is the best combination for a tuckered-out pup!


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