Humans usually rely on weights, treadmills, stationary bikes and sometimes even electrical pulses to achieve beefcake status. And yet, we often assume that leisurely walks are enough for our dogs. But is that really enough, or should we all invest in dog exercise equipment? Sonya Courtney of FitPAWS and Bradley Phifer, executive director of the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, help us answer all of our questions about dog exercise equipment.
For starters, do I really need dog exercise equipment?
That depends on the state of your dog and what goals you have for their health. “Walking, jogging and playing with toys will provide enough exercise for many dogs,” Phifer says. “However, owners living with high-energy dogs and limited time may need to consider adding exercise equipment to their dog’s routine to decrease undesired nuisance behaviors. Exercise equipment may also assist dogs recovering from an injury and provide an option for fulfilling our dog’s needs during inclement weather.”
Courtney adds, “Most people are initially introduced to FitPAWS equipment in one of two ways — either from a vet or rehabilitation specialist who’s giving the dog owner exercise recommendations for recovery after an injury or surgery, or from a trainer who’s assisting the dog with a physical goal, like losing weight, improving core strength or improved performance for sporting or show dogs.”
Finally, before you start your dog with any sort of exercise equipment, Phifer says, “Your dog should receive a thorough veterinary exam to ensure they’re physically able to participate in an exercise program.”
So are regular walks not enough, then?
They certainly can be, but if your dog is recovering from an injury, exercise equipment may be safer. Furthermore, training your dog to use exercise equipment can be fun for the both of you. “All of our experts and associates, who are trainers and vets, agree that walks are a great exercise for dogs,” Courtney says. “However, working with canine fitness equipment often comes into play and training in addition to walks. Much in the way a human goes to a gym, dogs can use their equipment inside regardless of the weather, how dark it is outside and so on. And the dogs absolutely love their time with their humans working on the equipment, so it’s a great bonding experience.”
Your dog’s breed may also require more exercise than only walking, which is where dog exercise equipment could come in handy. “Athletic breeds, like Weimaraners, Short Hair Pointers, Australian Shepherds and German Shepherds, require more than a brisk walk,” Phifer says. “They need to run in order to have their needs met.”
On a personal note, my dog is an absolute himbo simply because he goes on three long walks a day (dogs generally benefit from between 30 minutes to two hours of daily physical activity). So again, unless your pup has special needs or goals, regular walks (or jogs) are probably enough to maintain their general health.
If I were going to get some dog exercise equipment, what should I get?
“The most used pieces of FitPAWS equipment are the K9FITbones and the Balance Discs,” Courtney says. “They’re easy to use and appropriate for beginners and more experienced dogs alike. We recommend mixing and matching the different types of equipment to create new mental challenges and incorporate exercises that can isolate muscle targets and strengthen their hind limbs, front limbs and core. If your dog has a specific health condition or injury, it’s always best to consult your veterinarian or canine fitness trainer for specific exercises and types of equipment to ensure the exercise is appropriate for your dog’s needs.”
Another thing to keep in mind when shopping for dog exercise equipment is the size of your pup. “Smaller dogs can use almost every piece of equipment, but the larger dogs may need to use the larger pieces of equipment,” Courtney says. “Additionally, the level of difficulty can be changed based on the amount of inflation, so dog owners are able to titrate the amount of air to figure out the level of difficulty that’s right for their dogs.” When using FitPAWS equipment, more air generally creates more wobble, which makes the exercise more strenuous.
How can I train my pooch to use dog exercise equipment?
The nice thing about the FitPAWS stuff is that the goal is simply to have your dog balance on their inflatable dog exercise equipment, which means you don’t need to train them to run on a dog treadmill or anything like that. “Most people use luring with a treat to introduce the dog and get them comfortable using the equipment,” Courtney says. “The great thing is that when the dog is on the equipment, their balancing and stabilizing muscles engage, so they’re working out without even knowing it.” Here are a few examples of exercises for dogs:
For most dogs, it only takes five to 10 minutes of this kind of exercise — accompanied by regular walks, of course — a few times a week to improve their strength and balance, so no need to go all bootcamp instructor on them
Okay. But do I really need dog exercise equipment?
If your vet says so, yeah, probably. Otherwise, regular walks and jogs should be enough to keep your dog in shape. However, if you want to train your pup to use dog exercise equipment, and they’re in generally good health, it certainly won’t hurt to beef them up a bit. Just don’t be surprised when they steal your girl (or guy).