Strength Training and Fitness for Dogs

exercise to keep him or her as healthy as possible. But did you know that you can also get your pooch involved in weight training exercises? In this article, we will take a look at …

Strength Training and Fitness for Dogs

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exercise to keep him or her as healthy as possible. But did you know that you can also get your pooch involved in weight training exercises? In this article, we will take a look at various non-weight training exercises for your fur baby, strength training and its benefits for your dog, and some weight training exercises you can incorporate into your dog’s daily routine.

Why and How

Like you, your dog needs regular exercise to keep him or her both physically and mentally healthy. Most dogs will require roughly one to two hours of regular exercises each day. However, you will need to take into account your dog’s age, breed, and tolerance for exercise to find just the right amount. And, like most things in life, it will be a bit of trial and error. As a general rule of thumb, you should give your pet as much exercise and he or she wants, just don’t overdo it.

You will want to start your dog on an exercise program slowly, and work up to the point your friend can tolerate more exercise creating endurance.  As you do this, you will want to watch for some signs that your dog might be getting exhausted from too much exercise such as, heavy panting, wheezing, lameness, disorientation, and slowing/stopping during physical activity. It is not advisable to exercise your pet on extremely hot and humid days. And, you will want to make sure he or she always has access to cool, clean, and fresh water. Stop any type of exercise if your dog seems tired, achy, and/or not interested in play.

Non-Weight Training Exercises – Little Mo Cardio

Dog running.  by Raquel García
Dog running. by Raquel García

There are numerous types of non-weight bearing exercises you can incorporate into your dog’s daily exercise routine. Listed are some of the more popular activities, and a brief description.

1. Playing Frisbee – It is usually easier to throw a Frisbee a further distance than a ball. With this activity, your pet is getting in a bit of extra running and burning more energy.

2. Flirt Pole/Stick – If you’ve not heard of this object before, a flirt pole/stick is a long pole with some sort of lure attached to the end. You move the pole around and entice your pooch to chase the toy. This exercise provides both a physical and mental workout for your furry friend.

3. Walking/Hiking/Jogging – Daily walks are notorious for physical and mental exercise. If your daily walk starts to get mundane for your pet, switch things up by changing location or the pace. For a more physically demanding exercise, take your dog on a jog or run. Make sure to start slowly and work up to longer distances and faster speeds. Hiking provides an environment for you and your dog to explore nature. Introduce this activity to your dog with day hikes on cooler days, and work your way up to more moderate and difficult terrains. And make sure to always bring water for the both of you.

4. Nose-Work Games – Hide treats throughout your house, and tell man’s best friend to go and find them. This exercise is mentally stimulating and teaches your dog to rely on his or her ability to sniff things out.

5. Fetch – We all know how to play a game of fetch with our pups. Throw that ball (or other favorite toy) and watch Fido go. If weather doesn’t permit outside games of fetch, you can also play inside hallways, stairways, and larger living rooms with soft and lightweight toys.

6. Hide and Seek – You hide, and your fur baby seeks you out. Enough said.

7. Swimming – This is a low impact exercise for your dog that is non-weight bearing and helps to build range of motion and muscle mass. It is the perfect activity for a pup that suffers from issues such as arthritis.

8. Food Dispensing Toys – These toys make your pooch work for food by knocking it around to get that favorite treat/food out of the object.

9. Chase Bubbles – Buy a cheap bottle of bubbles and watch your dog be entertained as long as the bubbles keep coming.

10. Cycling – This activity is not for every dog or his or her owner. If you choose to engage in cycling with your pet, you need to start by peddling as slowly as you can, and letting your buddy get use to walking/running next to the bike. Try not to make a lot of twists and turns until your dog is accustomed to the activity. And then, over time, you can work your way up to faster speeds, distances, and course difficulty.

11. Dog Sports – Organized dog sports such as agility and canine freestyle events are gaining popularity in the dog ownership world.

Indoor Exercises – Zoomies

There are just going to be days where the weather does not cooperate for getting your doggy outside to exercise. On those days, you can implement some of these indoor exercises to keep your dog in tip top physical shape.

1. Running Up and Down Stairs – This fun activity engages muscle use in your pet he or she would not normally use in a walk around the neighborhood. On top of that, it is more challenging to your dog because of the change in elevation.

2. Set Up an Obstacle Course – Look around your home for items that can be used to create an indoor obstacle course. Items such as cushions make great tunnels.

3. Socialized Outing – Take your dog to the local pet store and walk him or her up and down the aisles to sniff around and try out some new toys, if possible.

4. Put Your Dog on a Treadmill – Start at very low speeds with lots of praise and rewards for staying on the treadmill. As the dog becomes more familiar and comfortable with the concept of the treadmill, increase the speed for tougher workouts.

What is Strength Training for Dogs?

For the most part, strength training for dogs is very similar to strength training for humans. It is meant to provide increased resistance in order to build muscles and encourage strength. The one main difference is that strength training your dog primarily uses the dog’s own body weight to achieve the desired goal(s).

Benefits of Strength Training for Dogs

The benefits of strength training for dogs are many, just like they are for humans. It promotes healthy weight management and body conditioning. It helps to decrease stress on the joints that can lead to arthritis. Strength training routines in your pet help to increase muscular, skeletal, and connective tissue strength to reduce the risk of injury. It helps to burn calories and keep metabolism in top shape. And, it can help your dog to perform better in sport and work tasks.

Weight Training Exercises for Dogs

I took this photo during my trip in Swedish Lapland . An adventure on a dogsledge through the beautiful Swedish nature by Astrid

Listed are some of the top ways you can engage your dog in some health boosting strength training activities.

1. Hills – The use of gravity in walking, running, and sprinting up hills help to build muscle tone and conditioning.

2. Weighted Vests – These vests turn daily walks or runs into consistent strength training endeavors. They can also be used during swimming, or simply playing in the backyard.

3. Squats – With your dog in a laying down position, have him or her jump for treats. This will encourage leg muscle growth and strength.

4. Water Walks/Runs – Movement against water is a proven low impact strength training exercise.

5. Sprinting – This is a more advanced form of strength training that requires your dog to be in overall good health and condition. It is a great way for your pet to build muscle strength and tone.

6. Jumping – By encouraging your dog to jump to varying heights, jumping will work the fast twitch muscle fibers used for speed and power.

7. Pulls/Tug of War – Depending on what level you hold a toy for the dog to pull will determine what leg muscles are being worked. The higher levels will work the rear legs and a lower level will work the front legs.

8. Pulling Loads – Use a cart and harness (made specifically for a dog) and have your furry buddy pull it around with varying items to create resistance.

9. Digging – This is strength exercises specifically works the front legs.


To keep your pup in the best health possible, you might want to incorporate strength training activities in your dog’s daily exercise and play routine. There are many benefits to building your pooch’s muscle tone and strength. Make sure to take the age, breed, and tolerance to exercise in mind as you introduce some of these fun and challenging games to your dog. And as an added bonus you, too, will get some extra exercise in your daily life all while bonding with your pet. It’s a winning situation for you and your dog.