Can I Get Healthier By Strength Training With Dogs?

Do you love working out? Maybe you’re more like me and know it’s a good idea, but you need a bit of a push. When you have a partner sometimes it just doesn’t seem as grueling. If you’re into strength training or trying to do more of it, then your dog may be the nudge you need. Today let’s dig into how to get healthier with strength training with dogs and discover some of the best exercises. 

NOTE: Always check with your doctor and vet before starting a new exercise routine.

cute dog is excited to do strength training with dogs
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It can be a drag at times to get to the gym and work out. Sometimes we look for every excuse to not make it for a workout. But the good news is you can save some money and still get a great strength training workout at home with your dog. There’s no membership involved and your dog gets to encourage you with a wagging tail, wiggly bum, or slobbery kiss. What could be better? You save some money and improve your health with your dog. That’s a big win-win!

What are the benefits of strength training for you? 

You might be asking what the benefits are there to strength training in the first place. Is it even worth it? Simply put, yes! Even strength training your dog has great benefits. Here are the 10 basic benefits:

BenefitDog ParentDog
Increases your overall strengthXX
Helps with flexibilityXX
Strengths bones and reduces arthritisXX
Improves brain and cognitive healthXX
Increases metabolismXX
Reduces abdominal and total body fatXX
Helps to control blood sugarXX
Promotes improved heart healthXX
Can help with improved sleepXX
Boosts self-confidenceXX
I bet this surprises you.

Is it a good idea to work out with my dog? 

Most dogs love hanging out with their dog parents. They may want to be in the middle of what you’re doing, but that’s when you get to put them to work. 

NOTE: Always make sure your dog is comfortable and at ease during your exercise routine. I think it’s a great idea to play music as well. It helps me and Henry. 

What kind of strength training can I do with my dog?

I admit this will depend on the size of your dog. If you have a smaller or maybe even medium-sized dog it will be much easier. Although, you can still work out with a large or giant dog. The idea is that your dog is your exercise tool. In other words, your weight or resistance. 

But don’t worry, if you have a large dog have your pup lay across you while you do pushups or on your feet while you do sit-ups.

Although, if you have a very small dog or puppy, then try to do more reps.  

But, if you are able to lift your dog, then try these weight training or strength-building dog exercises:

1. Dog curls

This is the same as a normal curl, except instead of weights you use your dog. Hold your dog in both arms and curl up and down. Bonus if you give your dog a kiss on the up curl! 

2. Dog squats

Again, you will be holding your dog in both arms and doing squats as normal. 

3. Dog lunges


This is the same as a normal lunge, except you’re holding your dog again in both arms for even distribution of weight. 
 

4. Dog split squats

Resting one leg bent behind you on a chair and holding your dog in both areas, you’ll do squats as normal. Make sure to switch legs. 

5. Dog pushups

This will work for any size dog, but if you have a back problem, you’ll want to skip this one. 

Simply have your dog lay across your back, ask for a stay or wait, and continue with push up as you would normally. 

Can my dog do strength training? 

Yes. For most dogs, it’s a great idea and they’ll get the same sort of benefits (see the table above) as you do with strength training. However, always check with your vet before starting any new exercise program.

What other easy strength training exercises are good for dogs?

There are a number of exercises you can have your dog do that will help him or her with strength training. However, just like your training, don’t overdo it or overtrain your dog. Instead, build up slowly to 15 minutes perhaps three or four days a week. Your goal is to build your dog’s overall strength, not create a puffed-up-looking pup. 

Here are some easy strength training and resistance exercises you can try with your dog:

Stair climbing

If your dog isn’t used to climbing stairs then go slowly and encourage your pup along the way with a treat and praise. Henry can climb stairs, but if he thinks he can get a treat without climbing he’ll go for that option. 

Tug of war

This one works well if your dog loves to play with toys. There’s no real trick to it, simply pull out a dog toy and play tug-of-war. It will help to strengthen the legs, neck, heck nearly all the muscles. But if your dog doesn’t like toys, there are other options. 

If you need a quick, easy, and cheap new tug dog toy, then check out this great tutorial video by the Huston Humane Society

Swimming 

This is a great strength-building exercise for an older dog or one recovering from injury. However, don’t assume your dog knows how to swim. Always be with your dog and provide encouragement and praise for swimming. If this is new water to you then off with a life vest. 

Henry working on strength training with dogs by swimming at the pool plunge at the end of the pool season.
Photo by Cathleen Allison/Nevada Momentum/FotoCat Tales.

Walking backwards

Some dogs walk backwards naturally. Henry learned it fairly easily. It’s a super exercise for gaining strength and working on the hind leg muscles. 

NOTE: Henry also likes to stand on his hind legs a lot. His vet insists Henry has the strongest rear leg muscles of all his patients

 Here’s a quick video on how to teach your dog how to walk backwards by McCann Dog Training.

Weighted backpack or vest

Of course, this works best if you already have a dog vest or backpack. Simply put a little bit of weight in the backpack evenly distributed. One great option is small water bottles or water bottles filled only part-way. Then you can add if it seems too easy for your dog. 

Flirt pole

This is a great option for dogs that are highly prey driven. Some dogs that just love to chase will like it too. A flirt pole will help with overall core muscle strength and especially the rear leg muscles. 

Although, you may need to get your dog used to the idea of chasing a “thing” on a pole by rewarding him or her with dog treats and praise. Honestly, though, some dogs like Henry won’t find it that engaging. Henry would rather chase me – or vice versa. That’s a good option as well. 

If you don’t have a flirt pole, but would like to try it for regular exercise with your dog, here’s a great video to walk you through the process by Positive Response Training

Can my senior dog do strength training?

Yes. Strength training isn’t just for a young dog, working dog, or agility dog. It can really be for nearly any dog as and yes, a senior dog, long as your vet approves it for your dog. It’s actually a great idea to help build your senior dog’s core strength with resistance training which can lead to a healthier dog. Of course, if you’re using your dog as your strength training or resistance training tool then age isn’t as much of an issue. But, I’d still check with your vet first. 

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Summary of getting healthier by strength training with dogs

Exercise is a critical part of life, even for our dogs. Strength training and weight training are also highly beneficial as we age and that’s the same for our dogs. While we can use our dogs for our strength training and resistance training tools, we can also help get our pups in better canine conditioning with just a few simple resistance exercises a week. It’s good for them, breaks up our boring dog routines, and helps our furry friends’ overall health. That’s a very good idea. 

a husky puppy is learning how to do strength training with dogs

Do you do strength training with your dog? Will you try weight training with your dog now? 

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About Terri Rodefer

Terri Rodefer is the founder of Tail Wag Wisdom, a blog focused on affordable pet care. She likes to say helping pet parents afford and love their animals even more, makes her tail wag. As a lifelong lover of all animals with a background in economics, biology, and marketing, allows Terri to bring a unique spin to pet care. 

8 thoughts on “Can I Get Healthier By Strength Training With Dogs?”

  1. Fantastic post and I would never have thought about this, will have to remember for the future as Layla is too old now to do any of them but she keeps me on my toes by walking a lot which she still loves.

    Reply
    • Thank you for your kind words and continued support! I know Layla keeps you on your toes and well-exercised. But yes, strength training with your dog is a unique way to build strength and save money. Even your dog can do it with great benefits. It’s definitely a big win all around.

      Reply
  2. This is such a great idea, I love it. My senior dog really needs it. I’ve started allowing her to jump up towards her food bowl as I carry it – I never let her jump before, but now I think it may be good for strengthening her core. I’ll check w/ my Vet to see what else she can do and if walking backwards would be ok for her. Thanks Terri!

    Reply
    • Core building is amazing for both dog parents and dogs. Although, I’m very happy to hear that you’re checking with your vet first. That’s the critical first move. Walking backwards is an easy one for a lot of dogs and yet very beneficial. Thank you for your continued support. I really appreciate it!

      Reply
  3. I would not have thought of using a dog as an exercise buddy/equipment. Just reading this wore me out but I agree 100% you will both benefit and exercise is something we all need more of!

    Reply
    • Yes, it can be a fun way to build core strength and even encourage you to work out more. And yes, you’re right even the pets and pups benefit. Thank you so much for your continued support! I really appreciate it!

      Reply
  4. I LOVE these ideas! I chuckled when you talked about walking backwards. Our oldest Husky, Harley (our alpha queen) used to crack me up because after my husband built a ramp for our dogs when a couple had surgeries, Harley would walk down the ramp, then suddenly decide she wanted to come back up on the deck and she would come up in reverse! I don’t know why, but she always did. I even have her on video doing it. Too funny! Now I should have done it with her to get my own exercise! I was thinking that I could have been really buff if I did lunges or curls with my Gibson (he was 98 lbs)! A missed opportunity! And he was such a sweetheart, I know he would have been game. How much more fun it would be to work out with our dogs rather than the usual drudgery (can you tell I don’t work out much?!) Awesome article and I am definitely sharing with my dog followers!

    Reply
    • That’s hysterical that Harley walked backward up your deck. She knew what she was doing for sure. You would’ve been super strong if you had used Gibson to work out with at 98 lbs. I’m happy Henry is under 14 lbs. That works for me. Thank you so much for your continued support and kind words. I greatly appreciate it!

      Reply

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