8 Tips for Exercising With Your Pet

Have you and your pet packed on a few pounds? If so, it's time to pull out the leash and get some exercise.  Here, eight great tips for exercising with your furry friend.

1) Take puppy steps. Depending on your dog's or cat's breed, fitness level, and age, you may need to start with short spurts of exercise.  Very young, old or overweight dogs need time to develop their strength, tone, and stamina.  Some breeds aren't able to walk as far as others, so check with your vet for guidelines on reasonable fitness goals for your pet.

2) Break it up. If one long walk is too much for you or your pet, take two or three shorter walks in a day. Go further than just down the block.  Set a route that requires 10 to 15 minutes to complete. Don't let your dog set the pace.  Keep it brisk or he'll spend your exercise time stopping to smell their (ehem) pee-mail.

3) Play fetch. Toss her ball over and over again to tone your upper body, thighs, back, and abs. Do a squat or lunge every time you time you pick up the ball. Switch arms and give both sides of your body a workout.

4) Play tag. Cats are harder to play with than dogs, but they love chasing beams of light from a laser-pointer or flashlight. Dogs are always up for chasing or being chased. Grab her favorite toy and make her work to get it.

5) Do kitty or puppy pumps. Pick your small dog or cat up and do bicep curls. Or, bend at the knees, squat, tighten your abs, and pick your larger dog up.  If your pet doesn't want to play this way, try tying doggy or kitty toys to the end of your hand weights and watch him jump while you pump.

6) Follow the leader. Pull out your yoga mat, get down on all fours, and mimic your dog or cat's natural moves. Stretch like she stretches.  Many yoga poses are named after animals for a reason. Downward dog is a great strength- and flexibility-building posture.  Cobra pose (no one says you can't exercise with your snake), camel pose, and dolphin pose are all inspired by humans' natural animal instincts to stretch and flex.

7) Avoid getting dog-tired. Watch your dog for signs of fatigue. Don't push him to walk further or play longer if he falls behinds, sits down, limps, or shows other signs he needs a break.  Dogs know their limits.

8) Bring a dog dish and water. Dogs and cats speak or reach the faucet. Provide plenty of drinking water to cool your pet down, and don't forget to hydrate yourself while you're at it.