Animal Resource Library » Behavior & Training » Getting Active – Fitness for Fido

Getting Active – Fitness for Fido

Dogs make great running companions—and since 1/3 of all pets are overweight it is a good way to keep them slim and happy. Exercise is just as beneficial for dogs as it is for humans. It’s wonderful for their mental and physical health. If you keep them active they are less likely to be hyperactive and destructive at home.


  • Run shorter distances when you first start out. Also start slow. Try one mile at first and see how they are the next morning. If they are sore or tired you know you have gone too far so cut the distance down.
  • Always check the pads of your dog’s feet. Dogs don’t have running shoes so they will need some time to harden up their pads. If possible run on grass and be careful not to burn your dog’s feet on hot pavement!
  • During warm weather it is crucial that you exercise your pet only during the cooler parts of the day like early morning and/or evening.
  • Know the signs of heat exhaustion. If they start to lag behind, pant excessively or their tongue starts hanging out these are all warning signs that they may be overdoing it.
  • Always keep them on a leash to prevent them from being hit by a car.
  • Don’t run a dog that is too young. It’s best to wait until they are at least eight months of age.
  • Conversely, older dogs might be better with just a walk instead of running.
  • Consider the breed and use common sense accordingly. A short-legged Daschund is not going to run as far or as much as a Greyhound or Golden Retriever, and a Jack Russell Terrier will need much more exercise than a Shih Tzu.
  • Before you start running with your pet its best to get your dog checked out by your veterinarian to make sure he’s in good condition.
  • Never exercise a dog right after a big meal as this can lead to life threatening problems such as bloat.


  • Again, start out slow and never leave your pet unattended in the water. If you have a swimming pool and your pet swims, don’t assume all is fine. Many dogs can swim but they cannot figure out how to get out of the pool and risk drowning.
  • If your pet is old or overweight it’s a good idea to use a life jacket for dogs as that eases the amount of work and lets them swim longer.
  • Introduce puppies to water by bringing along an older water-loving dog as a demonstration tool. Puppies will generally follow their elders lead.
  • Always rinse your dog off after swimming as the chlorine or salt water can dry the coat.
  • Dogs with floppy ears that are prone to ear infections should have their ears cleaned out after swimming to prevent an infection. Use an ear cleansing solution made for dogs.
  • Don’t let your dog go swimming for at least two hours before or after eating.

Here are some things to consider when hiking with your dog:

  • Make sure your pet has current ID tags as well as current vaccinations.
  • Make sure your pet is in shape. This means that it is free from hip, back and joint problems. If you’re not sure get a check-up with your vet first.
  • Make sure you have a sturdy leash and collar.
  • Always carry plenty of water. It is recommended to carry eight ounces of water for every hour of hiking and of course a portable water dish.
  • Consider buying a backpack for your dog. Even a medium size dog can carry a bowl and a first aid kit in their pack. A healthy well-conditioned dog can easily carry 25 to 33 percent of its body weight in a pack. Of course, you should start out slowly and acclimate your pet to the pack prior to the hike day.
  • Always stay on the trails.
  • Carry a first aid kit that contains the basics like bandage material, wound disinfectant, tweezers and vet’s number.
  • Try to discourage your pet from drinking pond or river water. It could contain bacteria that causes diarrhea in dogs, cats, and humans.
  • Always pick up after your pet.
  • After the hike, remember to check your pet’s coat for ticks, burrs and foxtails. It’s also a good idea to look between their toes and check their pads for cuts and abrasions.

The best thing to do is to take them into your vet who will most likely prescribe a non- steroidal anti-inflammatory if they are really sore. Some examples of medicines used are Rimadyl, Etogesic, aspirin and a new cox-2 inhibitor called Deramaxx by Novartis that has just come out on the market, similar to Celebrex.
Note: Do not give your pet an aspirin or any other medication without your vet’s authorization.

Other means of exercise include agility training, doggy playgroups, walks around the block, obedience classes and playing fetch. The most important thing is that you and your pet are healthy and happy doing it!

Please note, articles in the Animal Resource Library are for reference only, and are not meant to diagnose or treat any medical or behavioral issues your pet may be experiencing.