Human Exercises @ Dog Park
Dog parks are designed to encourage canine exercise, socialization and entertainment. With a little thought and planning, human guardians can optimize the same visit to bond with their dogs while enjoying the benefits of human exercises.
You, of course, will have a professional physical therapist and/or your personal physician provide a written set of instructions, diagrams and examples for your own current physical condition. This is what *we* do- Twenty to thirty repetitions (or seconds) of each set, then go on to the next exercise. We go all the way through the list at least twice. YOU should do what your own doc/therapist advises. If you can do it three times while still attentively watching your dog, good for you! You are the Dog Park Exercising Super Star! Don’t tell me about what you can do, I have enough pressure as it is 🙂
- THE PUSH OUT. No one wants to do push-ups on the ground at the dog park. BUT every dog park has fences and most have stationary tables and chairs cemented into the ground. You can easily use these to do modified push ups- which we are inventively calling “Push-Outs”. ONLY do these when you can face your dog and watch your dog’s activities at ALL times.
- Place your feet about twelve inches apart, facing the fence. Be sure you are stable. Place both hands on the fence and push out.
- THE SIT N STAND. Face away the chair/ bench as you would normally sit down. Begin to slowly lower yourself on the chair until you are just a hair above the seat. Then slowly return to a full stand. Repeat. ONLY do this when you can face your dog, watching your dog’s activities at all times.
- Variation: Full squats: If you’re already in great shape and can do full squats, this is the time to do those! However, I will caution you that by lowering your face to dog level in a full squat, you put yourself at risk of many dog kisses. (Both by your own dog and the dogs of complete strangers.) Don’t say you weren’t warned.
- THE GRAVITY Your arms vs. gravity! Hold your arms out palm down, to the side and slowly count to thirty- or sixty! On the next cycle, hold palms up. On the third cycle, hold your arms directly in front of you. If you’re already in great shape, hold something in each hand (such as a water bottle) while doing this. We do NOT recommend you hold your dog while doing this; they don’t like it AT ALL. Plus, the wiggling is very distracting.
- THE JULES VERN: DIG & STRETCH: Dig To The Center of the Earth, Then Stretch to the Moon
- EARTH: Standing perpendicular next to the fence, (so you can grab the fence for safety if you are unsteady) place your feet 12” apart. As you continue to watch your dog, reach down, stretching your entire body until you touch your toes. (Or as close as you can come to your toes and still stay comfortably balanced!) Stay down, relaxing and stretching without strain. Count the number of seconds you can comfortably stay down and keep track of it. Increase the time by one second each cycle. Slightly stretch the right side further, then the left. Slowly return to standing up right.
- MOON: Reach both hands straight up, extending the arms as comfortably far as possible without strain. Slightly elongate one arm and release, then the other. Hold each arm for five seconds or whatever is comfortable.
- Variation- THE OVERHEAD: Side to side stretches of your arm in half-moon arches over your head.
- Variation: THE HUG: Arm reach around the front of your body as if in a big hug. Stretch comfortably and hold. Then stretch and hold the other side. Release and relax.
- THE SLOW JOG/FAST WALK. Around the perimeter of the fence, start slowly walking, increasing your speed as you watch your dog. If safe, increase to a slow jog. Encourage your dog to match you. Advantage: Often times your dog will love to do this WITH you! Do NOT do this if there are other dogs near by. Do not allow your own dog to get near your feet and trip you. Be sure that no other dog thinks you are running as that will cause them to chase you. Never cause a dog to chase you: no good can come from that!
- HOMEWORK- For those with backyards at home, practice doing this twice a day for a week with your dog on leash, running around the perimeter of the yard at home so Fido understands what you are doing. Associate a word and treats with this type of exercise so Fido will understand what to do on command. We use the military phrase: “Hut-2, 3, 4” because it sounds pretty cool. And we all love the military vernacular! We have no idea what a hut has to do with running, though every dog we have ever run with instinctively understand what it means.
- THE BALANCE BEAM: Stand next to the fence, but don’t actually touch it unless you have to for balance safety. Stand on one foot for sixty seconds without falling and without touching the fence (unless you have to!) Change feet and repeat.
- For extra points, hum the traditional circus tune for balancing “ XXX Link here” Watching Spot’s face reacting to your singing is always hilariously entertaining. However, our dogs believe that our singing indicates pain. So they jump on us repeatedly to try to comfort us, which rather spoils the whole attempting-to-balance endeavor. It’s a great excuse to wind down the exercise cycle though.
- WITH TOOLS:
- arm band stretches
HOT TIPS TO MAKE YOUR LIFE EASIER:
- COFFEE, TEA OR ME FIRST- If you are a stimulant dependent person, having a cuppa before leaving the house will give you the extra motivation to happily incorporate your own exercises into your daily doggy exercise program.
- TURN OFF the cell phone. Better yet, leave it in the car. This device will distract you from exercising and will certainly distract you from your dog’s needs. BOTH you and your dog can live without this technology for a half an hour. You DESERVE the time together! If your dog sees that you always spend more time with the cell than with your dog don’t blame me when the machine one day ends up in a shallow grave in the backyard. Just sayin’
- ENERGY FIRST – Monitor your own energy carefully.
- Plan to stop well before you are tired. You need energy to BE ALERT to your dog’s needs. If you just did 100 push ups (yeah right, as if, lol.) you may not notice that little ankle biter is beginning to tease your rottweiler, putting everyone in potential life-threatening danger. AND you want to have enough energy to call your dog back, rush over, distract the offending pet, etc. DO NOT FREAK OUT YOUR DOG by overreacting BECAUSE YOU were TOO TIRED or distracted to pay attention to your dog!
- THINK: DOG FIRST!!!! This is NOT a competition. If you are in mid-stretch, or half way to the record for your personal best, and you see that your male terrier is stalking another dog trying to mount her, INTERRUPT YOUR EXERCISES and get on over to your dog! If Your Precious Fluffy is hanging out at the entry gate ready to pounce on the next canine who enters, GO PREVENT THAT behaviour. ALERT OBSERVATION, PREVENTION & DISTRACTION, is EVERYTHING to enjoying a safe time at the dog park.
- CARRY WATER & Snacks for YOU. Exercise causes glow. (aka: perspiration). Water departing from your pores causes dehydration. Dehydration causes lack of attention and poor decision making. Stay hydrated so you can stay alert! Of course you will ALSO make sure that Fluffermutt, your pup, is appropriately hydrated (you DO know that dogs can become OVER hydrated and BLOAT and die if you don’t monitor their water intake when they are heated, right?xxx)
- Ditto snacks- keep your blood sugars well balanced. For all the same reasons as above.
- RIDICULOUS REWARDS- How can you motivate yourself to CONTINUE exercising at the dog park day after day? Appropriate, Ridiculous Rewards! I would never in a million years pay perfectly good money for so-called “smart water” … Except as a reward at the dog park! From a cost/benefit analysis, it’s a great deal less expensive to pay three bucks for a liter of water NOW, rather than the massive costs of obesity, poor health, lack of exercise, shorter life-span, etc. Ditto chocolate (NOW you’re talkin’!) And there are SO MANY great “Water Options”. There’s Lemon water, fruit water, vitamin water, French Perrier, Italian Pelligrino, Artesian water, Reverse Osmosis water, etc. By the time you get through the list of all the available water choices you can reward yourself with, your exercise program will be the envy of the dog park!
- SPECIALIZED FIRST AID KITS- For BOTH you AND your Pet. This has come in handy way more times than I ever could have predicted. Seriously, just get these and Velcro them to the inside of your trunk. You can thank me later.
- GROUP THINK. Yes it IS fun to chat with other dog owners at the dog park. It’s even MORE fun to exercise with them at the dog park. But even Einstein wasn’t sufficiently masterful to simultaneously exercise AND chat AND carefully watch his own dog to prevent bad behaviors. In fact, Einstein was also famous for becoming lost on the campus where he worked because he was so easily distracted by what he was thinking rather than where he was going. THE LESSON HERE: ALWAYS KEEP YOUR EYES ON YOUR DOG. Don’t be an Einstein!
- UNPREDICTABLE: After forty years doing dog rescue I know that the red-flag word “unpredictable” means that the dog owner/guardian was NOT watching the pet, and/or not understanding pet body language and situations. It is extremely rare that a pet’s actions are entirely unpredictable. If you feel that your pet’s actions are unpredictable; or if your pet is not under complete voice-control, do not take the pet to the dog park. Hire a reputable behaviorist. Video multiple examples of the pet actions and provide the footage to the behaviorist. Get the training that you need to modify behavior for all concerned, both human AND dog!