Discover New Ways To Get Active Outside With Your Dog

Need some ideas on how to get active with your dog? Eukanuba shares some inspiration fit for any pooch.

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There are lots of ways to enjoy the outdoors with your dog from trail running, camping and hiking to canicross, agility and disc. Here are some ideas to help inspire new ways you can go outside with your best adventure buddy including some tips for success

(Photo: Jordan Siemens, Courtesy Eukanuba)

Trail Running

If you like to trail run then consider taking your dog with you. As with any increase in physical activity, you’ll want to start slowly. The terrain on trails can be more aggressive than your dog is used to. Short, 15-minute runs will help gradually toughen up his paw pads and build up his endurance. Keep in mind that basic obedience and leash training are important for trail running with your dog.

Hiking

Hiking requires similar preparation as trail running so it’s important to ease into it with your dog. Give some thought to the kinds of hikes you want to take and consider your dog’s temperament and physical condition to ensure a good match. It’s essential that your dog listens to commands and comes when called while hiking together. You might consider investing in a GPS tracking collar in the event your dog trails off in pursuit of new scents and sounds. For longer hikes, a dog backpack is helpful so your pup can help carry his supplies. Just be sure the pack fits correctly, is loaded evenly and isn’t too heavy for your dog.

(Photo: Blend Images – Mike Kemp, Courtesy Eukanuba)

Canicross

Canicross is a combination of ‘canine’ and ‘cross’ country. It’s different than just running with your dog on a lead. Many people who canicross with their dogs liken it to a feeling of flying. You’ll need a special harness for your dog that is designed for pulling. For yourself, you’ll need a canicross waist belt and a bungee leash that attaches your belt to your dog’s harness. The belt is designed to sit low on your hips to help reduce jarring to your back as your dog pulls you. Basic obedience and leash training are essential.

Bikejoring

Bikejoring is similar to traditional dog sledding except it’s done on dryland using a mountain bike. It provides a great workout for you and your dog. Bikejoring typically takes place on mountain or forest trails. You can harness one or two dogs to the front of your bike. Training is key to making this activity safe and enjoyable. Proper gear is equally important including a mountain bike in solid working condition with excellent breaks along with a bike helmet for your own safety. In addition, you will need gear for your dog that is specifically designed for bikejoring including a properly fitted dog harness, a bungee leash, and a bike leash attachment. If biking with two dogs, then a gangline is needed to help keep the dogs together. Depending on the ruggedness of the trail you might also consider protective dog booties.

(Photo: Jordan Siemens, Courtesy Eukanuba)

Camping

Camping makes for an ideal getaway that can include your dog. If you’re going into the wilderness then consider picking a spot near some water to maximize your activities with fishing, hiking, swimming, trail running, and exploring with your dog. If you’re visiting a campground make sure they’re dog friendly and that your dog is well behaved. Call ahead to make sure you’re visiting a campground that’s a good fit.

(Photo: Cavan Images – Offset, Courtesy Eukanuba)

Paddlesports

Dogs that love water are often naturals for canoeing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. Before heading out on the water, take time to properly acclimate your dog to the vessel on land. Then make sure you have a system for safely getting your pup in and out of the vessel once you’re on the water. Basic obedience training will help keep you and your dog safe. Be sure to reward your dog’s patience on the vessel with a swim. A life jacket will help prevent exhaustion while he’s in the water. Keep an eye on the water temperature as water absorbs body heat much faster than air. If the water temperature is cool, keep your dog’s time in the water short.

(Photo: BluIz60, Courtesy Eukanuba)

Dock Diving

For those natural retrievers that also love the water, dock diving could be the perfect fit. Dock diving is a sport, and dogs compete for the longest jump- or the highest jump- into a pool from a dock or a raised platform in pursuit of an object such as a bumper or favorite toy. There are a number of national dock diving organizations and competitions across the country. Whether you choose to go pro or prefer to simply enjoy watching your dog crush his personal record in the backyard pool, dock diving is a whole lot of fun on hot, summer days.

(Photo: Courtesy Eukanuba)

Agility

Agility is one of the fastest-growing sports for canine athletes and it offers dogs a tremendous mental and physical workout. Under your direction, your dog completes a 14-20 station obstacle course that ranges from running through tunnels and weaving around poles to jumping over objects and navigating see-saws. Like dock diving, there are a variety of ways to get involved through organizations, competitions, and clubs. You can get started training at home with a basic agility equipment kit.

(Photo: Courtesy Eukanuba)

Disc

Disc has been a popular game to play with dogs for over fifty years and it has continued to grow in popularity. It’s a great way to exercise and bond with your dog. Many dogs love to fetch and will be naturals at running and catching a disc. With some training, you and your dog can choreograph an entire routine that has him doing all kinds of acrobatics as he catches a disc midair. Be sure to select a dog-safe disc made from a soft material and never use discs designed for human play. For those who choose to compete at disc with their dog, there are a variety of organizations, competitions and clubs to help you get started.

Things To Consider Before You Start A New Activity

Think about what your dog naturally likes to do. Some dogs are wired to retrieve and they’ll wear out your arm fetching balls, discs, and pretty much anything you lob out there. Natural retrievers may also enjoy splashing in streams, rivers, ponds, lakes and the ocean. Breeds like Labradors, Goldens, Chessies, and Tollers can be a great match for activities involving the water, boats, canoes, kayaks or SUPs.

Other dogs are born to work. They’re smart, they learn quickly and some have stamina to run all day. Think shepherds, collies, and the like and match them to an activity that stimulates their mind and provides a good workout. Agility and disc are great options to consider.

Versatile dog breeds like German Shorthaired Pointers, Vizlas, and Weimaraners often like the land and the water. They love to run and are often great trackers. Canicross, bikejoring, trail running or dock diving are solid options to try.

Dogs who enjoy racing, chasing, pulling or mushing can make great biking or running companions. But keep in mind that some breeds are better suited for sprinting like Greyhounds and Whippets. Others are built for longer distances like Huskies, Malamutes and Dalmatians.

There are lots of different breeds and mixes, so give some thought as to what your dog is naturally inclined to do. Be sure to take his body type and current physical condition into account before getting underway with any new outside activity.

Safety First

No matter what new activity you’re inspired to try, there are a few steps to take to get your dog ready for the adventure ahead.

  1. Visit your vet to make sure your dog is fit and in good overall health. Be sure his shots are up-to-date, and if you’re headed into the wilderness make sure he’s covered on flea, tick and heartworm preventive. Ask your veterinarian for advice on preparing a first aid kit to have on hand.
  2. Make sure you prepare your dog for the increase in activity as well as the potential change in environmental conditions. Dogs need to be conditioned over time before participating in any significant increase in physical activity. And if they’re used to living in the air-conditioned indoors, take time to slowly acclimate them to hot summer weather. Avoid rigorous outdoor activities if the heat index climbs above 75.
  3. As you increase your dog’s activity level, take into consideration his diet and daily caloric needs. As a dog’s activity-level increases, he’ll need to consume more calories and he may need to transition to a diet designed for an active lifestyle. Consider feeding him a performance diet that matches up the right nutrients for the kinds of activities he’ll be doing. Sprint-oriented activities require an increase in carbohydrates while endurance activities require an increase in fat and protein. Some performance diets also have antioxidants to aid in post-exercise recovery.
  4. Dogs should never run on a full stomach. If you just fed him a full meal then wait for a minimum of three hours before you head out. That gives him time to process his food and have plenty of energy for the adventure ahead.
  5. Hydration is critical for active dogs, particularly in the summer. Keep plenty of clean, cool, fresh water on hand. Take regular breaks to rest and hydrate.
  6. Don’t let their energy fool you, puppies are not yet ready for many of these activities. It’s best to hold off on rigorous activities until your puppy’s joints are fully developed. Since different breeds can mature at different rates, consult your vet on when your dog might be ready to join in on the fun.

Summer is a great time to be active outside with your dog. With so many activities to choose from, boredom should not be an option. So get geared up to go outside.

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