Get Fit with Your Dog: My New Year’s Day Dog-Human Exercise Workout

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Get fit with your dog

By Sophia Yin, DVM, MS


Every year members of the Golden Valley Harrier Running Club, to which I belong, start the New Year with a major fat burning event – an 18+ mile trail run. Well, I ventured on this run two years ago with Jonesy, my Jack Russell Terrier. He fared well. In fact, he probably ran 20 miles and had plenty of energy the rest of the day for other activities such as fetch. My legs however, were sore for days due to the several miles of downhill running right at the start. That and the fact that the longest I’d run in months was 10 miles.

This year after running a total of about 10 times in the last 6 months I decided I still wanted to start the year off on a good note in both the exercise and quality dog-time departments. I’d had to take a break from running due to bunion surgery followed by a related knee injury and had been doing other boring exercises to try to keep in shape—deep water running, rowing, Yuk!, Crossfit—fun but not the calorie burn of running. In the Jonesy department I’d spent 2010 traveling a lot or working with “visitor” dogs in my house meaning that Jonesy didn’t get enough dedicated time to himself. As a result, we are both getting out of shape. So I decided that that today would be the perfect day to start to get fit with my dog.

The New Year’s Day Workout Routine

First, we slept in. No thanks to Dante, the Bengal cat though. Around 4:00 am he started yowling frantically in Bengal code. Everything’s an emergency with a Bengal cat. Meow! Meow! Meow! I’ve entered the room. Look at me NOW!  Meow! Meow! Meeeeeeoooooooow! Guests! I’m here to be petted!  Pronto! And if that doesn’t work I’ll do a WWE wrestling move and throw myself on my back. Please pet my belly!

Well my translation of Dante’s early morning musing was, “Hey I wanna be booted out of the room and the door shut behind me.” So that’s what I did, and it worked, no meowing after that.

Once I finally did wake up, I made sure to stay in bed another 45 minutes before I got out and started my stretching routine. Jonesy’s warm-up routine was to round up all of the tennis balls in the house and drop them nearby for me to toss.

Get fit with your dogThe Workout Includes Play and Training for the Dog

One problem with working out with your dog is that it’s difficult to get good behavior when your goal is to just run a certain distance or perform a certain number of exercises in a set time period. For instance, when I’m walking with Jonesy I can switch things up so he’s interested in staying with me rather than in chasing the squirrels or other prey-like items he sees.  When I’m running, especially with other people, he knows I often won’t stop if he gets ahead so he often likes to run slightly ahead of me and pull just enough to drive me nuts.

Today our routine was all about mixing fun focus and attention exercises with the run and exercise routine on our 5 mile course.

Phase 1: The warm-up was broken into a fast walk with quick changes of pace and direction to remind Jonesy that sticking by my side was fun.

Phase 2: Then the next part was the running part divided into 10 repetitions of  90 seconds fast (150 strides) followed by 30 seconds slow where I could work with Jonesy again to remind him that it’s fun to be in heel position even when I’m running.

Phase 3: Next was the fetch and sit-stay portion for Jonesy. While I worked on three repetitions of 100 lunges followed by 50 jumping squats (OK, my second round did not involve jumping), Jonesy played fetch. He also did short repetitions of sit-stay while I was doing squats, but either the cold weather or how I look when I’m doing squats, was starting to freak him out a little so I used that as my excuse to just do 10-15 squats at a time.  Needless to say, when your goal is to get back to your dog before he gets up, you can learn to do squats quickly.

Phase 4: The cool-down lasted 1 mile because that’s how far I had to walk to get home. But it was a brisk walk because I had to generate enough heat to keep warm—it was COLD! Realistically, if I were planning this workout for someone else, I would have said they should jog that last mile, but since I had a dog with me, I rationalized that it would be okay to walk and work on rewarding him for patterns such as walking backwards or doing side-by-side spins with me. Hey, exercising with the dog has to have some benefits!  One is that you should be able to somehow use your dog as an excuse for why the workout is taking so long.

Fun for Me and Jonesy

Overall, both Jonesy and I had a great outing and he practiced his good behaviors even though he just thought it was fun. And best of all, I think I burned off that left-over dessert that I had for breakfast.

My New Year’s resolution does not involve dieting.


For tips on how to train your dog to behave politely so that you can work out easily, go to and read the blog articles or watch the videos. Watch say please and suddenly settle dog class demo at

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8 responses to “Get Fit with Your Dog: My New Year’s Day Dog-Human Exercise Workout

  1. I seem to always be on the Australian Shepherd fitness program!! But as far as I’m concerned, dogs make the best workout partners. My puppy is only 8 months right now but we are working on learning to behave on leash and have manners so eventually we can run together!!

    Staci Lemke, RVT, CPDT-KA
    Manners For Mutts Dog Training

  2. I agree. There’s nothing like watching your dog have fun while you are getting your exercise too. I love watching my dog smile at me while we’re running or, when on a trail, run ahead a little, stop to sniff and then wait for me to catch up (or run back to me and then run ahead again). Now, for people with poorly trained dogs, it’s another story:-).

  3. I wish this was possible with a baby too! I love going for walks with the dog and baby, but there is no way I could do the lunges and jumping with the baby! Exercising is always so much more fun when you have a partner, especially when it’s your dog! smile

  4. My dog gets stressed out by sudden changes, such as change of pace at a walk, for example.
    To prevent this “nuttiness” he then exhibits I sort of ease into every change of pace.
    Do you have any other advice?
    (its more common when it’s more than one person running with him)

    I want to be able to run with him this spring without having to plan every step so very carefully. (first we have to be able to walk past other dogs, but thats a completely different story).

  5. Dear Dr. Yin: The town I live in is looking to revise their lease law to allow dog owners to us Electronic Leases to walk their dogs. What is your view on this? Are they good enough to physically control dogs in all situations? Thank you for your advise. D.Rion

  6. Definitely not!

    Most people who use electronic collars use them incorrectly. One thing they do incorrectly is that
    1) they don’t have the remote control in their hand at all times with their finger on the button. Consequently they do not respond to a problem situation until after the dog is creating a problem (e.g whatever the dog can do in 2-5 seconds depending WHERE they have the remote control)

    2) Secondly the shock level often has to be adjusted based on the dog’s excitement level. And even if remote is in their hand, if they have to adjust, the effect will not be immediately. I’ll post more thorough answer later on the blog.


  7. Thanks for the tips! I definitely need to do something, vacation and the holidays really packed on the pounds. I will have to be creative for a couple of months, the snow is coming down hard and my dog hates the snow. Thanks again and keep up the good work.

  8. Hi Dr. Yin!

    I’ve been a fan of yours forever. Thanks for the great advice! I have four pibble mixes that I exercise at the same time ranging from 60 to 95 lbs. They love the pack walk, as do I!

    I work from home and sometimes cannot get them out until after 9 a.m. I always feed breakfast after their walk/run, but I was told by a friend that they need to be fed before that because of hypoglycemia.

    Dr. Yin, what is the appropriate interval between feeding a meal and exercising? I would hate to cause bloat or vomiting, but I don’t want to exercise my pack with low blood sugar either. There are so many opinions. What is yours?

    Kay smile

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