The word “fitness” might evoke images of running shoes or sweating at the gym, but how about activities that include your favorite canine? Does your furry friend get off the couch to stretch more than her jaws at mealtime? If not, it’s time to get her moving!
Fitness with your best friend is fun for both of you — and the whole family. Plus, it supports longevity, injury prevention, and mental health. Yep, mental health. It’s a fact that many problem behaviors are a direct result of boredom and unspent energy.
So what options are there for you and your frisky companion? In Portland, the sky is literally the limit! Here’s a guide to fitness in and around the city.
Surely you’ve heard Kaiser Permanente’s radio ads saying, “Everybody Walk!” Walking is one of the easiest, most affordable, readily available options for keeping pups fit. And wherever you live there’s a neighborhood or park suitable for walking. In inclement weather you can even walk at your local big-box home improvement stores, most of which welcome socialized, well-behaved canines.
Got dogs of different speeds? No worries. Consider a stroller. My Leo absolutely loves to come along – throwing unique, fluffy tantrums when left behind – but he is so slow. Picture this: the girls stretched out six feet ahead, Leo strolling along six feet behind . . . not ideal. So we got a stroller. Now Leo rolls along and hops out for off-leash romp opportunities.
Among the friendliest places for dogs nationwide, the Northwest boasts many canine-centric fitness facilities. Swimming is great for pets of any age, even those with physical limitations. Being suspended in water removes pressure on joints, just like for humans. Of course during warm seasons there are plenty of outdoor options. To name a few, some of our favorites are 1,000 Acres and Clackamette Parks, and the Willamette near Oaks Park.
We are surrounded by some of the most beautiful country in the nation, making hiking a wonderful experience for two- and four-footed creatures! There are countless directions you can go, all fitness levels, amazing things to see — and for your pup to smell. A great guide on exploring the region is Doin’ The Northwest with Your Pooch by Eileen Barish.
So many to try! Have you considered agility? Actively engaging in an obstacle course is great for the 2- and 4-legged alike. Among the best things about it is the partnership between you and your dog. Plus, you burn physical and mental energy, which of course is good for you both.
Joring. Never heard of it? Well, get ready to Google 'cause there’s a whole wide world of options. Basically joring is a pulling sport. You can train your dog to pull with a harness and work up to connecting him or her to a bicycle, a scooter, or skis. It’s a year-round sport, and another supporting the relationship between you and your pup.
Other activities equally awesome for providing challenge and pleasure and supporting the relationship include weight pull, carting, disc-dog, dock diving, obedience, barn hunt, nose work, rally, and freestyle. Different activities are suited to various fitness levels, so it’s easy to find something you both can enjoy.
Biking is another fun year-round activity. When Vegas and I started, my hope was to keep her toned and build a bit of muscle. Given her Great Dane size and strength, I wasn’t comfortable just holding the leash while we biked, so I purchased an accessory that attached to my bike and clipped to her harness. It worked great and we’ve enjoyed many miles together over the years.
One thing I enjoy most about staying fit with my pups is the bond that continues to deepen between us. Even at nearly 10, Vegas does not like to go more than a day between walks. She grew up accustomed to activity, and still expects it. Getting and staying fit can take on many appearances. Just keeping your dog involved in daily activities becomes a fitness routine.
Keep it simple.
Fitness needn’t cost a lot; plenty of options are free or perfectly affordable. By following the KISS — ‘Keep It Simple, Sweetie’ — rule, simple activities like walking to the mailbox together, throwing the ball in the yard after dinner, taking a stroll to watch the stars, going to the market or a neighborhood event, camping, or splashing in the river are great ways to keep your pup engaged. Even playing tug or teaching tricks contribute to fitness. I like “unwind” and “wind up” — my little pups spin first one way then the other. I also work to use command words for everyday activities like stretching or walking backward.
A lot of fitness is about your creativity, so use your imagination! How can you keep your dog involved in life? Mine rarely stay home — only when I’m running errands, etc. They love to visit family, go to dog shows, ride along, hang out at barbeques, and play any training game Mom comes up with.
So lace up your tennies and grab the leash: it’s time to get fit, have fun, and keep Fido moving!
Kennedy Morgan works in the construction industry by day and enjoys coming home to her Great Dane, Vegas, and Pomeranian, Leo. Her household is also indentured to a 14-year-old tortoiseshell diva cat, Capri. They enjoy walks, hikes, beach trips, agility, and learning new things, and are often seen out and about on the west side or at local dog sporting events.