You may love going to the gym 3-4 times a week, your kids may go to hockey or soccer every weekend, or you may be concerned that the only exercise your family gets is their thumbs on their computer console.
Wherever you fall on the continuum of keeping fit, having a dog in your family can raise your activity levels significantly. Even if we just consider their daily exercise needs, dog owners are four times more likely to hit their recommended exercise targets than non-dog owners.
Despite letting your kids name the pet dog, there are a range of activities they can do with the family dog, and the scope to improve your families general fitness and activity is huge!
- Daily Walks
Most dogs will require between 30 and 60 minutes of exercise per day. Some breeds, significantly more. This is a perfect way to get into a routine. Think of it as building a new habit. You may choose to build a walk in before you head to work, or when you finish. When the kids are home from school, they will soon learn that it’s just part of their normal day.
Depending on where you live, you may have easy access to hiking trails at the weekends. This is a great way to build more exercise into your family’s life. Ensure your dog is capable to hike the trails with you. Avoid over-exercising if they are a puppy. The general rule of thumb for puppies is 5 minutes per month of age. So, if they are 3 months old, they should only walk for 15 minutes twice a day. It’s understandable for kids to want to take their puppy out on adventures but explain that their body just can’t cope with it yet.
Equally, if you have an older pooch, consider how mobile they are and whether they are able to complete the trails you choose.
Take water if you are heading out on trails, for the whole family, and be mindful of the area and any warnings that are issued. Remember your poo bags too!
A great activity to keep active dogs occupied, both adults and kids can partner with their pooch in agility. As a handler you need to guide and direct your dog over and through a range of obstacles. It’s great for relationship building and bonding, also for working on commands. It’s fast, it’s fun and as the handler you too spend plenty of time running! Kids love it for its energy and who doesn’t love seesaws and tunnels! Eager-to-please dogs are perfect for agility, those stubborn ones can take a little longer to get the idea.
More suitable for those sociable dogs who love working in a team, fly ball runs on a knockout basis. Your dog jumps over hurdles to get to the end of a run, collects a ball and retrieves it back to the start. The next dog then does exactly the same. Think a type of relay. If you are interested, you’ll find plenty of videos and wonder, how does it keep the family fit if the handler doesn’t run. You’d be correct. The handler doesn’t run in the relay. However, you must first train your dog to do so. During that part, you will run. Plenty! You need to guide your dog over the hurdles, to the backstop, encourage them to get the ball, then return, over the hurdles again. The fitness here is certainly in the training.
Whilst you may instantly have visions of being dragged up the road by your pooch, cycling with your dog can be a great way to keep fit, for the whole family.
Socialisation of bicycles should start as early as possible. You want your pup to be absolutely confident with all the sounds and movements of the bike. The last thing you want is him shooting across the road when you change gear! He should also walk confidently to heel if you expect him to walk or run next to the bike. If you head out on trails in the woods or mountains you may choose to let him off leash, but there will be occasions where he will need to be on leash. Riding past livestock going downhill is not the place you want to find out he can’t walk to heel (or bike as the case may be).
Safety aside, a 150-pound rider could burn up to 540 calories per hour! So, it’s certainly a great way to keep fit! https://www.bicycling.com/training/a20019281/overestimating-calorie-burn-when-cycling/
Here we are talking about non-exercised activity thermogenesis. This is the energy expended by any body for everything that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. So, it’s calories you burn by just doing things. Even twiddling your thumbs. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15102614
What does this have to do with owning a dog?
How often do you sit down in a day when you soon need to get back up to let the dog into the yard, or remember you need to feed them, or you make a fuss of them, or start combing their tail. The inactivity of a dog owner is pretty limited, all things considered.
You have the general care of the dog, feeding them, walking them, grooming them, picking up their poo etc.
You have the house maintenance of owning a dog; the extra mopping of the floor, extra vacuuming, washing etc.
Then you have the training and socialisation. The running around the garden playing, working on commands and walking to the train station because you want them to get used to the sound of the train.
In short, just by owning a dog you will be more active in the scope of a day, and so will your family if they participate in the daily care and training.
Having a dog as part of your family can be a great way to keep fit, from their daily walks to weekend adventures. You may consider extra activities like agility or cycling to increase your general fitness, but by merely including a dog in your life, your four times more likely to hit your recommended exercise targets.