A healthy dog is a happy dog! Keep your pooch in tip-top shape through consistent exercise to help him live better and longer. Whether he’s a playful puppy, a full-grown adult, or even a senior dog, your four-legged friend will benefit from active pursuits that’ll keep him physically and mentally stimulated. Aside from giving him a healthy way to expel energy, sports will tone his muscles and help maintain his optimal weight. It’ll reduce the risk of obesity that could damage his joints, increase his blood pressure, and/or put a strain on his internal organs.
Get into a new sport with your dog by trying any of these sports listed below. (You can also spice up your exercise routine by doing various activities for each day of the week!) These fun activities will not just give him something to look forward to doing with you on a regular basis, but will also undoubtedly strengthen your bond.
1 Dog hiking
Enjoy the great outdoors on a sunny day! Hiking with your pooch is a unique experience that would expose him to grand views of the rugged countryside, giving him an opportunity to sniff a vast array of flowers and plants while building his strength and endurance. Siberian Husky, Australian Shepherd, and Alaskan Malamute are just some of the best breeds that make great trail partners.
Before taking him hiking, make sure your dog is in good health (with no wounds that could be infected) and all of his vaccinations, dog collar info, and microchip are up-to-date. Give him a sufficient supply of water and snacks (which can be placed in a doggie backpack for him to carry) and keep him on a leash for safety.
From Cumberland State Forest to the Leacock Regional Park, there are many dog-friendly nature parks in Sydney that you and your pooch can explore. (Note: Before heading out to a NSW national park or reserve, make sure to check for closures and fire bans here.)
2 Lure coursing
If your dog is highly energetic and naturally fond of chasing things, he might excel at this performance sport! Originally developed for sighthound breeds such as Greyhounds, Whippets, and Irish Wolfhounds, lure coursing will test your dog’s fitness, temperament, and concentration to lock in and chase after a moving target. The intense sport uses an artificial lure attached to a nylon string to act like a “live” animal, which is then dragged around to recreate open field coursing.
In Australia, you can learn more about the sport through the Australian Lure Coursing Association or join their competitions by first trying out with your pooch. There are two divisions for the sport: Sighthound stream (for breeds including Afghan Hound, Azawakh, Borzoi, Greyhound, Ibizan Hound, Irish Wolfhound, Pharaoh Hound, Saluki, Deerhound, Sloughi, Whippet, Italian Greyhound, Basenji, and Rhodesian Ridgeback) and Coursing Ability stream (for all other registered breeds and associate registered dogs).
When the weather is hot, the fastest way to cool down is to jump into a pool, beach, or lake. However, not all dogs are natural-born swimmers (such as Pugs, Shih Tzus, and Dachshunds), so it’s best to provide him with a dog life vest or jacket each time you plan on taking him on an aquatic adventure.
Swimming benefits dogs in many ways. Dr. Jonathan Block, DVM of Water4Dogs Canine Rehabilitation Center says, “Hydrotherapy is good for fitness, body condition, and a great source of aerobic exercise that is low impact on the bones and joints. It is a great tool to help your dog stay in optimal shape.” A one-year-old pup, a pooch recovering from surgery, or a senior canine suffering from arthritis can all benefit from this water exercise.
For beginners, start at a shallow area of the body of water to let your pet get acquainted with the feel of water around him, then slowly make your way to the deeper part. Keep him hydrated with constant water breaks, and don’t allow him to drink water from the pool or pond as it might cause intestinal distress. Never leave your dog unattended no matter how adept he is at swimming. Afterwards, give his ears a good cleaning to prevent ear infections.
Visit these dog-friendly beaches all around Sydney: Rowland Reserve, Sirius Cove Reserve, Flora and Richie Roberts Reserve, Greenhills Beach, Silver Beach, Dumaresq Reserve, and Manly Lagoon. Plus, there’s a dedicated pool for good boys and girls at the southern end of Sydney Park (near City Farm).
4 Dock diving
Once your pooch has mastered the art of swimming, jumping into the water to retrieve an item can be another activity for him to try. Dock diving is simple: you throw a toy into the water, watch your dog jump off a platform to get it, and let him swim back to you with the toy. The common events for this sport include distance (which measures how far your dog lands in the water to retrieve the toy), speed retrieve (which times how fast your dog gets the toy), and air retrieve (which shows how high your dog can jump above the water to grab the toy).
Any type of dog over six months old who loves to jump into the water can compete in this exciting sport, but Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers have a natural advantage because of their build and coat. When dock diving, make sure your dog wears a waterproof dog collar that fits securely. Pick floating toys such as a ball, a fetch toy, or a dog-training dummy that fits his mouth correctly, or your dog might end up swallowing too much water as he swims back to you.
Short for dog yoga, doga is a relaxing exercise that aims to improve your pup’s flexibility and health. Through doga, you can be completely engaged with your dog as you both do calming breathing techniques and full body poses (downward facing dog, anyone?) that can loosen stiff joints and release tight muscles.
Try a doga video workout at home, or better yet, sign up for a 45-minute class with fellow dog lovers. The classes are open to dogs of any age, size, and breed, and even to pet owners without previous yoga experience. Canines attending doga class must have good dispositions, are able to walk and move about, and must be up-to-date with their vaccinations. Your pooch will enjoy bonding with you in this relaxing space, making new two- and four-legged friends, and learning movements that will give him inner peace.
Depending on your dog’s breed, age, and fitness level, it is recommended that he gets daily exercise between 30 minutes to two hours every day. As with all new endeavours, start small by doing it for about five to 10 minutes a day, and observe how your dog reacts to the sport. If his reactions are encouraging (you hear a happy bark mid-activity or receive a drooly kiss after the session), gradually work your way into doing longer workouts.
Remember to get the go signal from your veterinarian before trying any of these sports with your pooch. Make sure he is healthy enough for the sport that you plan to do together, and monitor his breathing, water intake, and behaviour while he is exercising. Petplan staff veterinarian Dr. Kim Smyth says, “Find an activity you and your dog both enjoy and work it into your daily routine. As an added bonus, people who exercise with their pets tend to lose more weight themselves; it’s a win-win!”