Daily activities like stretching, hiking, walking, and running help reduce stress level, maintain muscle tone and flexibility, and promote optimal body function. For many dogs weight gain is a simple result of too much food and too little activity. However, there may be other contributing factors, which is why we suggest you should check with your vet before starting your dog on any exercise program.

So where to begin?  Start with a basic check of your dog’s body shape. Too thin, too heavy, or just right? Hopefully, your dog’s shape is just right, and maintenance is your goal.

A walk around the neighborhood is a good building block for fitness, and although dogs like routine, it can become boring. Shake things up by going for walk along any of our many urban nature trails. A hands-free leash will help you maintain an aerobic pace. For a less aerobic workout for you, try a trip to dog beach. Either way, be sure to take along plenty of water. The Lixit Thirsty Dog sport bottle or collapsible water bowls like the Ruffwear Quencher or Itzadog's Zuka Bowl are ideal.

To keep your workout well rounded, don't forget doggie stretches. Stretching is best done once the muscles are warmed up. Enroll in a tricks class to learn fun ways to help your dog stretch and develop a good sense of body balance. For some inspiration check out this cool dog aerobics video:

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Y2DBrqw-O8&feature=youtube_gdata_player

When your pooch is ready for it, kick it up a notch. The Ruffwear Singletrack Pack can be used for trips around the block. The pack features two large, side pockets plus a couple of external pockets. Removable water bladders are included. If a backpack is new for your dog, start with an empty load and gradually work up to heavier loads. It's recommended that your dog carry no more than 25-30% of his body weight.

Plenty of praise coupled with some lo-cal, single-ingredient training treats like Bravo Training Treats and Real Meat Jerky Bitz (2-3 calories per treat), make activities even better and are easy on the waistline. Be careful though, dogs can suffer sports injuries just like people. So don't let your dog get too crazy, and adjust activities to meet the needs of your dog. Some other exercise safety tips:

  • Dogs can’t sweat to cool off, so it’s up to you to make sure they don’t overheat. Take extra care with black, overweight, older, and short-faced dogs. Plan your activity during the cooler parts of the day.
  • Dogs don’t set limits, so you’ll have to do it for them. If your dog begins to show signs of fatigue, then it’s time to start cooling down.
  • Short dogs just can’t go as far as big dogs. If your pack consists of mixed sizes then plan activities that accommodates their individual limits, like running around at the beach or a game of fetch at the dog park.
  • If your doggie’s been a couch potato, start out easy and build gradually. Overdoing it on the weekend can lead to injuries.
  • Go easy with young dogs. For most dogs, their bones and muscles are still developing until they’re about 18 months old. Check with your vet before starting intensive exercise.

Not sure how your fitness program is working? Stop by our Mission Hills store and hop on our doggie floor scale. If you regularly weigh your dog you’ll catch those excess pounds before they add up.