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Is your big dog getting the exercise he needs?

If you have a Great Dane, Greyhound, Boxer or other large or giant breed dog, there’s probably nothing you both enjoy more than getting outside and exercising together. It helps keep both of you healthy while building your relationship as well.

Things to remember
Large and giant breed dogs can be much more prone to joint issues. That’s why it’s especially critical to exercise regularly and help them maintain a healthy weight since obesity and inactivity are the leading risk factors for joint problems.

And while it’s tempting to take your large-breed puppy - and his seemingly endless supply of energy - with you on your daily run, remember that until he’s considered an adult, his skeleton hasn’t developed enough to support such activity. Puppies do need exercise but they should avoid excessive or intense physical activities until they are old enough to avoid injury. Check out the article on large-breed puppies for more information.

If you have any concerns about the health of your dog, please be sure to consult with a veterinary professional before beginning a new exercise program. This tip applies for you too! If there are concerns around your own health, please contact your own doctor before making changes in your physical activity level.

So, with those things in mind, let’s look at some fun activities you can do together to stay fit, active and have fun!

The Classic Walk
Exercising together can be as easy as taking a stroll down the street or visiting your local dog park. Want to break a sweat? Mix it up with intervals of jogging, running or high-stepping to boost your heart rate and burn more calories for both of you.

Want even more of a challenge? Take a walk on different surfaces like sand, shallow water, fallen leaves, snow or a rough surface. Or use obstacles like benches, trees, ditches and logs for your dog to jump over, crawl under or balance on. Remember to keep jump heights low until your dog has reached a year of age.

Fetch Races
A new twist on an old favorite. Grab your dog’s favorite toy and give it a toss. But this time, race your dog to and see who gets to it first. You should stay away from throwing sticks, however, since they can splinter and cause injury.

Dog Tag
Harken back to your childhood and play a game of tag with your dog. You’ll both get a great workout and your big guy will love trying to chase you down. One thing to note – if you have a herding breed like a Shepherd, this play may inadvertently bring out some aggression.

Dogstacle Course
First, put some fitness steps or similar household item around your backyard. Next, place your dog on his leash and walk through the course at a quick pace. When you reach a step, do an exercise like toe touches, modified push-ups or leg squats to give yourself a solid workout. Your dog will be in constant motion and will love spending time with you.

Dog Park
Your local dog park is like a birthday party and aerobics class all rolled into one. Take your dog by yourself or invite some friends and their dogs and make it a social event. Make sure you’ve done some behavioral and socialization work with your dog to help him be relaxed and friendly in this sometimes chaotic setting.

Red Dot Rally
The invention of the laser pointer has brought with it endless hours of fun and exercise for pets. It’s a great indoor activity on a rainy day or go outside to your backyard and play a modified game of tag trailing it behind you as you run. Be careful not to shine the laser in his eyes and if you’re playing indoors, you might want to move any breakable items to another location.

Out and About
Many communities hold 5k runs, swims at public pools or lakes and other events where you and your dog can exercise together with hundreds or thousands of other pets and their owners. Build your relationship with your dog and other pet parents as you stay active and have fun.

Hiking
Your big dog loves being out in nature as much as you do. So the next time you lace up your hiking boots, why not pull out the leash and take your dog with you! Choose a trail that’s the right length and elevation for your abilities and take enough water to keep you both well-hydrated.

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