As a dog owner, there’s nothing worse than trying to find the balance between outside demands—work, workout, social life—and spending time with a furry pal. As I’m the type of person who spends time researching the best dog food, quality pet insurance, ensuring all the dog toys are BPA free, etc. there have been many times I’ve chosen to forgo stopping off at the gym on my way home from work just so that I could spent quality time with my pup.
So thinking about this for a bit, it turns out, though, there are ways to get in a fantastic work out AND spend time with my dog. Doggie bootcamps are becoming increasingly popular as pet owners look for ways to include their dogs into their daily life. Not only do the owners get in a good workout, but the dogs get to be active and get in some obedience training to, ahem, boot.
You’ll want to make certain that your participants have a grasp—or a paw—on a few obedience basics. All dogs should be able to sit, lie down, and stay on command. They don’t have to be perfect, and they’ll be getting a lot of practice at all of these skills during the class, but they should have a basic proficiency to make sure that bootcamp sessions are efficient.
Your dog’s health is important as well, making sure you routinely visit your local veterinarian, utilize dog insurance, feed your pup healthy food, and is just in generally good enough shape to be exercising.
You’ll also want to suggest that dogs are fitted for halter-style collars. These collars minimize the stress that tugging and activity can place on a dog’s sensitive neck and redistribute pressure more evenly.
The key to a successful doggie bootcamp will be to vary cardio workouts with strength training exercises just as you would in a normal bootcamp environment. The difference is, when the dog isn’t actively participating in an exercise, he/she is instead always kept in a command—i.e Sit, Down, or Stay. You’ll want to break up mat exercises with short runs that the dog can take part in as well. Following is a list of both cardio and strength-training exercises that work particularly well.
Indian Sprints- Have participants and pups form a single file line. Run them around and every time the whistle blows, the duo at the back of the pack needs to sprint up to the front of the line.
Suicide Sprints- Nothing makes dogs happier—and works out glutes quite as well—as good old-fashioned suicide sprints.
Tennis Ball Run- Marker a slew of tennis balls with your favorite base line cardio activities—jumping jacks, mountain climbers, and so on—and place them around your workout area. As the group does one of them, and the dogs sit at attention, one duo must sprint to retrieve a tennis ball. When they get back, the entire group switches to whichever activity is listed on the ball and the next duo sprints out to retrieve a ball.
For strength training, the best exercises are the ones that will allow your participants a good view of their pups while completing the exercises. Getting the owners down on a mat, and closer to their four-legged friends, is also a great idea so that the dogs feel included and the humans can make sure that their pup is following commands.
Pushups- Vary the type to give your participants a full body workout. Have the four-legged participants practice moving between a sit and a prone position.
Burpees- As you make your human exercisers squat down butt to ankle and then jump back up again, consider having them toss a ball on the way up for their pups to catch or chase. Be prepared for a lot of laughter!
Lunges- As participants do lunges, dogs get a chance to practice their heeling and on-leash good behavior.
Dead Bugs- Everyone lies down on the ground on their backs, arms and legs up in the air. Call out varying arm/leg combinations—i.e. “Left arm, right leg!” or “Right arm, right leg!” Participants must hold those limbs at a 45-degree angle from the ground until the whistle is blown. Muscles will burn and dogs seem to take great pleasure in watching their owners be silly.
Know that whatever exercises you choose to add into a doggie bootcamp, by the end of a good session you’ll see a lot of happy grins and wagging tails. There’s nothing quite like getting in a workout with your best friend.