Shape up and get fit with your dog


02 July 2015
In a bid to help tackle the obesity epidemic, the Kennel Club launched its Get Fit with Fido campaign in 2008. It's the only campaign of its type dedicated to both dogs and owners, and aims to inspire people to find new ways to get fit with their dogs.

As part of the campaign, there is a Slimmer of the Year competition for the dog and/or owner who have lost the most weight through exercising together.

Doing more exercise is a great way to keep fit, and will also help you to lose weight. And exercising is more fun when you do it with a canine friend by your side.

Research by the Kennel Club suggests that celebrities like presenter Clare Balding, who shed pounds thanks to walking her dog, provide the inspiration to other dog owners.

Get ready to warm up

Why not make 2016 the year you get fit with your dog?

Dog trainer Lisa Jackson, who's based in Kempsey, Worcestershire, has devised some simple exercises that owners can do with their dogs as part of a fitness programme.

Before you start exercising it's important to warm up. Here are three warm ups that you can do before starting your exercises.

Warm up 1 - Walking

Walking up and down is a good warm-up exercise, both for you and your dog. Make sure you walk your dog on both your right and left-hand sides. Repeat five times on each side.

Warm up 2 - Sits and squats

Get your dog to focus on you, then ask him to sit, lie down, and stand. Repeat this five or six times. You can then join in the exercise; get your dog to sit and at the same time, do a squat. Hold the squat for as long as it feels comfortable. If you and your dog are reasonably fit you might be able to squat lower down and hold it for longer. Repeat five times.

Warm up 3 - Lunges

Get your dog to sit next to you. Stand up straight, put your left hand on your left knee, stretch your leg forwards, and then back to the start position. Repeat five times, then swap legs and do another five.

The equivalent of a lunge for a dog is to give his paw. Ask your dog to sit. Then get him to give you his paw. Repeat the exercise five times for each paw.

You can progress to holding your hand further away so your dog has to stretch further, or do a touch if he knows this command.

Once you have warmed up, try the two easy exercises over the page to get you started. They are suitable for people and dogs of all fitness levels.

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Time to exercise

Exercise 1 - Figure of eight

  • Stand still with your dog on a lead on your left side.
  • Start walking slowly, circling in one direction and then the other, in a figure of eight.
  • When you get back to the start position, repeat with your dog on your right side.
  • Repeat five times on each side.
  • If your dog is obedient you can try this off the lead.

Exercise 2 - Circling

  • This is a simple exercise that owners can do together with their dog to get the heart pumping. With your dog at your side, start to slowly walk around in a circle. How big the circle should be depends on the fitness level of dog and owner; if you're not very fit start with a small circle, and as you become fitter, increase the size.
  • Next, increase your speed so that you're power walking, exaggeratedly moving your arms at the same time.
  • Once you've completed two or three circles, progress to running with your dog, picking your legs and thighs up high as you run.
  • Remember to repeat the exercise going clockwise, then anti-clockwise, so you're working your dog on both sides. Do no more than five repetitions in total.

Mr Motivator's top 5 motivational tips

Mr Motivator, who rose to fame in the 1990s through his appearances on the breakfast show GMTV, offered these tips to keep people motivated.

  1. In order to succeed, get an exercise buddy. Your dog is your buddy; he has certain needs, and wants to exercise. That's your pulling power straight away.
  2. Set a goal such as being able to walk or run a mile. Time it, and see how long it takes you. Remember, the first two letters of goal are g and o - so go for it!
  3. When walking your dog, don't just walk around near your house. Every time you pass home, you will be tempted by it.
  4. Be prepared to have days when you don't feel like doing any exercise. Say to yourself: ‘I've had a bad day, tomorrow will be better.' Recognise that your dog needs more exercise than you. You don't even have to leave your home to exercise; by going up and down the stairs you will work your heart, lungs, and muscles. For your dog, hide something in a room and let him run around and find it.
  5. I exercise the same time every day, but vary the exercises - that's important. If you keep doing the same thing every day your muscles get used to it, and you will get bored, so it is important to vary your routine.