A working dog by its very nature is bred to be active and stimulated. There are plenty of activities you can engage in, alongside work and walks, that are good for both of you.
Great for dogs of all ages, swimming is excellent all-round exercise. Because their bodies are fully supported in the water there is less strain on their joints, but they can still enjoy a great workout.
Some dogs are more naturally drawn to the water and others are less interested. If you can face some wild swimming, there are few dogs that will be able to resist joining you! Failing that (and let’s face it, lake, river and sea swimming isn’t for all of us) you can see if throwing balls in will entice them in. Make sure to have a dog towel handy so they can be rubbed down afterwards.
There are also dedicated pools for dog swimming which you could search for in your area – look up ‘canine hydrotherapy’ (link below).
Many working dogs are naturally competent at gaining agility skills and most can be trained. It’s a fun way to exercise you and your dog, both physically and mentally. It’s also one of the most rewarding when it goes well!
Create your own canine agility course using large pipes or tunnels for them to crawl through, vertical sticks planted in the ground to weave in and out of and a simple beam to walk along. There are also many suppliers out there with a variety of interesting pieces of equipment. However, it’s more about the practise and regularity of training to be most effective. Start small and build on your successes, remembering to reward your hard-working dog with praise and treats.
The Kennel Club has a useful section on its website about competing in working trials (link below). “Dogs compete in ascending levels called stakes. From the lowest stake, companion dog (CD), through utility dog (UD) and working dog (WD) to tracking dog (TD) and patrol dog (PD) at the very top. Exercises are divided into three sections: nose work, agility and control. They comprise various tests, including heelwork, searching for hidden items, long jump and scaling a wall.”
Trail running or hiking
Depending on your energy levels, running a forest trail or taking a brisk hike does amazing things for your mental well-being as well as taking care of your daily step count. Being in nature is something many working dogs do all day long but, when it’s a dedicated leisure pursuit with you, it takes on a whole new meaning.
Googling ‘trail runs uk’ will present you with everything from ultra marathons to Iron Man events – we say pick a forest, choose a route and take it at your own pace.
How about Flyball?
You don’t need any equipment beyond a pile of tennis balls and a racquet to begin with. If your dog enjoys a game of fetch, then Flyball could be for you! Meet other passionate dog handlers and get fit with your dog when you train and compete.
If you love the countryside and seeing dogs working as they were intended to, field trials may provide the perfect activity for you and your dog. Trials resemble a day’s shooting and expose your dog to some of the work that gundogs traditionally undertake. The Kennel Club has some useful information that tells you more – whether you are new to Field Trials or more experienced.
Walking on sand takes a little more effort for both you and your dog. Walking along the sea front, using the water to play in if you want to, and incorporating games of fetch, is another good way to balance body and mind, away from work.
What’s important for all dogs, especially the working breeds, is a consistent routine with a few surprise sessions like these – mixing up the exercise plan for you and your dog will strengthen your bond, improve his attention and provide you both with better fitness levels. It would be great to see you and your dogs getting active. Tag us on our social channels, with #ActivewithAutarky.