There are thousands of exercise programs and an equal number of theories, books, and videos all claiming to have found the secret to weight loss. But there are very few, if any, exercise programs designed to help you and your dog stay fit together.
We went searching for the secret to owner/dog fitness and called on two experts who know something about dogs and exercise. The first is Jillian Michaels, the health and wellness expert, bestselling author, advocate, and television personality. The second is Cesar Millan, the star of Cesar 911 whose fulfillment formula of “exercise, discipline, and affection” has changed many people’s lives.
Cesar and Jillian met when Cesar came to help Jillian after she rescued her dog, Seven, from a shelter. They became fast friends and bonded over their love of exercise and discipline as part of a daily routine, and of course over their love of dogs. Jillian has three dogs; Harley, a Terrier mix, Seven an Italian Greyhound mix, and Richard, a Chihuahua rescue.
We asked the two dog lovers how to incorporate dogs in human exercise routines. Here are their tips on how to make your daily exercise routine fun for you and your dogs.
1. How you care for yourself is closely related to how you care for your dog.
“I have found that when people compromise their own health they often follow similar practices with their pets — overfeeding them and indulging them in dangerous ways,” said Jillian. “In addition, if the human isn’t prone to getting out and exercising, then chances are they certainly won’t get out to exercise their dog. This is why pet health is directly linked to the health of the pet’s owner.”
Cesar says, “The dog is one of the most adaptable animals in history and, fortunately or unfortunately, they adapt themselves to the human lifestyle.”
According to Jillian, “Pets get all the same diseases humans do from diabetes to cancer to heart disease. If you love your pet, I implore you to exercise with your pet and make sure both of you eat the proper amount of healthy food.”
2. Incorporating your dog into your exercise or walking routine can make weight loss fun for both of you.
Both Cesar and Jillian say taking your dog along for walks or runs builds a stronger relationship between you and your dog, in addition to providing good exercise. Jillian suggests jogging in intervals with your dog, and doing hill walks. For those breeds that are more active, she suggests rollerblading, bike riding or skateboarding with your dog to keep your exercise program fun and fresh.
Jillian says her dogs love to hike in the canyons and run on the beach. “They walk every day for at least thirty minutes. If we aren’t at the beach we do the canyons.”
3. Match breed and energy with the right exercise program
Cesar says the amount of exercise required for your dog will vary depending upon their breed and energy. “When I’m home, I take my pack out for a run every morning in the canyon,” says Cesar. “Argos, the three year-old Greyhound, and Junior, the Pit Bull, require more than just an hour run, so I usually take them out for a game of fetch or hill climbing before dinner.”
While every dog is different, the most active breeds are greyhounds, which can reach running speeds of up to 45 miles per hour. Whippets clock in around 40 miles per hour. Salukis, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, and Doberman pinschers are fast runners and require a lot of exercise. “Be prepared to run a lot if you own one of these breeds,” Cesar reminds us. “They’re great for cross-country runners, marathoners, and triathletes. Several athletes I’ve worked with have used these breeds in their own training.”
4. Your dog will be your best exercise coach and motivator
Set a daily routine with your dog. Try to walk or run at the same time each day. Mornings are best because walks at this time help to disperse the pent-up energy your dog accumulates during the night. It’s also best for the human. The more you run with your dog, the more your dog will expect it. On those days when you don’t feel like getting off the couch your dog will nudge, pull, and whine until he gets his daily exercise. Instead of viewing this behavior as annoying, you can see it as motivating.
Both Cesar and Jillian say they use dogs to rehabilitate people. Jillian added, “I have always used animals to help break down people’s defenses and open them up so they are more receptive to training and advice.” Cesar believes the recipe for a healthy balanced life is “Exercise, discipline, and affection, in that order.”