A Vet-Approved Guide to Working Out With Your Dog

Exercising with your dog or cat can be a pawsitive experience for both you and your pet.

WANT TO GET your pup involved in your fitness regimen? Rebecca Feiring, a veterinarian and owner of Happy Home Veterinary Care, says exercising with a pet can be a valuable bonding experience. Here are her tips for getting the most out of the experience. 

1. Choose the Right Workout

Several exercises pair well with dogs – running, hiking and swimming are common.

2. Start Slow

“If your dog’s not used to a lot of running, start little by little to build exercise tolerance,” says Feiring. This keeps your pup safe and helps achieve better behavior on longer workouts.



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3. Use a Leash 

“One time, I was hiking with my dog off the leash, and she saw some ducks in the water. She lost her mind, dove in and swam after them,” Feiring says. “Even with a really well-behaved dog, you don’t know what can attract their attention and potentially put them in harm’s way.” To avoid undue stress on the dog’s neck, you can use a full-body harness, as long as it doesn’t impede shoulder movement. And avoid using retractable leashes, which can cause injury to both you and your pet.

4.Bring Scooby, Not Scrappy

A growing dog can’t necessarily handle a high-impact workout. So don’t bring your puppy with you for a run or a rocky hike.

PRO TIP: If you’re a runner, look fora hands-free exercise leash. They’re widely available at local pet supply stores and are better for both you and your dog. Why? Running with a super-stretchy leash around your waist is better for your posture and gait. And you don’t have to worry about an unyielding rope tugging your poor pup’s collar avery time you move one of your arms. Photo by Max Thomsen

5. Keep an Eye Out for Trouble

Dogs get hot much faster than humans. During the summer, Feiring suggests running with your dog early or late in the day, when temperatures are cooler. And be sure to watch for signs of distress, like a lagging pace or excessive panting. Slow down if you notice anything.

6. Motivate Man’s Best Friend

Not every dog is eager to hit the trail. “Make it fun for them,” Feiring advises. “Offer treats they like as a reward, or take them to locations that are fun and interesting that they’ll like to explore.”

7. Gear Up For Winter

“The snow and salt and ice are definitely irritating to their paws,” says Feiring. If your dog can tolerate it, give them boots. If not, you can rub musher’s wax on the bottom of their paws, which provides a protective barrier against salt and ice.


This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s July issue.

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Archer is the managing editor at Milwaukee Magazine. Some say he is a great warrior and prophet, a man of boundless sight in a world gone blind, a denizen of truth and goodness, a beacon of hope shining bright in this dark world. Others say he smells like cheese.