Pets: Shape up with your pup this summer

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Try out water sports or water activities with your dog this season (File photo)
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By Kim Gilliam

Were you and your pooch a little lazier during the winter months? Did you let your workout routine and your dog’s regular exercise slide, resulting in some extra pounds you’d now like to shed? With warmer weather finally here, you can get back in shape together.

Dogs make the best workout partners – they never cancel on you or complain about it being too difficult and they are always excited to get going. Michigan State University found that dog owners were 34 percent more likely to get the recommended 150 minutes of exercise a week than folks who didn’t have a dog, so take advantage of that.
Here are some ideas for getting started:

Change up your walks

Walking your dog is a tried and true form of exercise and, with a brisk pace, you can burn as many as 170 calories per half hour, but it can be boring if you just do the same route every day. Try switching it up: Check out a new neighborhood, follow a trail, take a short car ride to somewhere new with great views or meet up with a friend and their pup to make it a social experience. The more you both enjoy the walk, the peppier your step and the more you will look forward to doing it again tomorrow.

Start running

Many runners are motivated by having their dog as a running buddy; their enthusiasm to get going is infectious and they won’t let a little drizzle deter them. Having your dog
along is a great way to ease into longer distances too.

You get to set the pace, but the inevitable bathroom breaks give you a chance to catch your breath. Be sure to keep their breathing and pace in mind too — big dogs will have no problem keeping stride, but smaller dogs might struggle to keep up if they’re not used to running. Start with a short run at a slow pace and build up your time and distance from there.

Field trips

Plan weekly outings with your dog where you can have fun and really bond.
In the metro D.C. area there are lots of dog-friendly activities including hiking, strolling dog-friendly neighborhoods, visiting wineries or having a picnic on the National Mall.

Games

Playing a game with your dog can be a great way to exercise them both physically and mentally. While it’s great to tire them out with fetch in the back yard, think of games that get you moving as well. For example, setting up a mini agility obstacle course that the two of you run through together.

Try out tricks training, teaching them to dance or high five so you can show off while you are out and about. Or hiding treats around the house or under boxes to activate their scenting abilities while getting them off the couch on bad weather days.

Water sports

We are fortunate to have the Potomac and Anacostia rivers nearby where lots of folks enjoy water sports like kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. Dogs of all sizes
can ride in the kayak or on the nose of the paddleboard while you get a great workout. Pick a calm day for your first excursion together so your pup can develop their sea legs and be sure to outfit them with a life preserver.

Is your dog a born swimmer? Then bring a stick or throw toy to play fetch with once back on shore. There are a number of boathouses in the area where you can rent equipment, so you can even switch up the scenery each time – National Harbor, Georgetown, the Nationals’ ballpark and more.

Be sure to remember that exercising with your dog can be one of the most fun and rewarding things you can do to improve your relationship. Both of you get
the physical benefits, but you also deepen the bond you have with your dog by creating more one-on-one time for the two of you.

Kim Gilliam owns Alexandria’s Frolick Dogs, an indoor dog gym, with her husband Kevin Gilliam.

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