Health & Wellbeing

Your 2012 Fitness Plan – for You & Your Dog

Copy: Serena Faber Nelson

Photography: Happy Paws Fitness

I’m super excited, because today on Pretty Fluffy we have Amy Tressider, the founder of Happy Paws Fitness, here to tell us the best way for you and your dog to fit and healthy this year.

So stop watching the Gilmore Girls, get off that couch and GET ACTIVE!


1. Consider your dog’s health before embarking on a new exercise routine.

Think about whether your pooch has any health issues that you may need to take into consideration for exercising i.e. Arthritis, old injuries, hip or knee problems – says Amy,  “If your dog has any of these problems you are better off exercising on soft surfaces rather than pounding the pavement. You also have to take into account breed health problems  – for example Pugs, Bulldogs, Frenchies etc should not be exercised in the middle of the day due to their breathing capabilities.”

2. Define your Dog’s Fitness Levels & Ability.

There’s no use asking your Teacup Chihuahua to keep up with you on a mountain bike trail. Look at your dog’s age and breed and set some limits for your exercise routine. “If you are unsure, ask your vet,” notes Amy.

3. Fuel your Dog for Fitness.

Think about the last time you felt motivated to do a spin class after a McHappy meal. Without the proper diet, you’re basically asking your pooch to run with their tank half empty. “Food/fuel is a really important tool to making sure your your dog is ready to exercise; whether you feed a raw diet or a biscuit diet, make sure what ever you feed has real ingredients, the less preservatives and chemicals the better – a rule of thumb is if you cant pronounce it or it has a number after or before it you don’t want it in your little mate’s body.”


Walking. Nothing beats a good old fashioned dog walk! Says Amy, “If you can, walk towards an off leash park where your dog can have some free time between the leash walking. Aim to walk for an hour and their off leash time can be 10 minutes. If your dog isn’t ready to be off leash yet the treat can be walking slowly through the off leash park so they can take in all the smells and sights.” For an added bonus consider mixing up your dog’s walking routine. “You can also do some shuttle runs with your dog – pick a start and finish, run one way then the other; this is a fun game in which you and you and your dog can race each other.”

Running. A great exercise for both you and your pooch, but make sure you don’t tire your dog out too soon. Amy offers this advice, “You may need to include some walking if your dog gets tired. It’s a good idea to be able to run in the direction of a park with a water bowl so your running buddy can hydrate while you’re out.”

Swimming. Great for dogs with joint issue or weight problems, swimming is the perfect summer activity. “You can look up dog friendly beaches in your area, take a ball, water & sunscreen,” says Amy. But be careful –  “Some breeds can over exert themselves, some may chase seagulls or ducks or just swim too far chasing their own splashes. Keep an eye on them as some may need a forced rest.”


If you’re new to exercise or getting back into it after a few years, don’t go too hard too soon – for the sake of your dog and your own health. Set goals that are achievable for your first week and go from there. “Set off on a 20 minute walk, allow your dog a rest after 10 minutes if they are struggling,” advises Amy, “and then perhaps for week two you can add 5 or to minutes to your walk.”

And don’t forget to have fun! Exercise needn’t be a chore – and with your best friend by your side it should be part of the day that you look forward to enthuses Amy, “You want to make it fun for both of you so set off with a positive and confident out look, your dog will feed off your energy and you will both feel better.”


Before you start any exercise, evaluate your dog’s weight and overall health. Make a note of it. This will give you a clear starting point to come back to as you continue to document your dog’s health and/or weight loss as the year continues.

How to Assess your Dog’s Weight

  • Run your hand down your dog’s spine and down over its sides. You should be able to feel the ribs easily through a layer of skin. If you have to press and dig for them your dog is probably carrying a few extra pounds. Given that it’s a little harder to feel the bones on a dog with a long coat, bath time is often a good time to try this.
  • Look at your dog. Can you see an outline of a waist or an abdominal tuck (this is where the ribs tuck up to the stomach)? You shouldn’t be able to see a straight line from the ribs to the hind legs horizontal to the ground.
  • Research, in books or online, the correct weight for your dog’s breed. Vet hospitals often have a chart in the waiting room. While you’re there pop your dog on the scales and see how he or she compares. For a full analysis take you pooch for a Canine Weight Loss Consultation.


Toys. My top tips would be never throw sticks as these can splinter in their mouths, get stuck between their teeth and cause all sorts of nasty problems. The humble tennis ball is also nasty; the fibres get stuck between the dogs teeth and can be corrosive over time. The up side is there are special dog tennis balls that don’t puncture and don’t have the harmful fibres, there are also stick replicas made of rubber so you can avoid the vet after your park play. There are also many floating toys on the market so if you are heading to the beach remember to pack floating toys otherwise you may be going for a swim.

Collars. Flat nylon collars with sturdy buckles are best for exercising your dog, you need to make sure there are no tears or weak spots. If your dog gets a fright near the road you want to know that he or she cant get away.

Leads. I prefer flat nylon leads for exercise, I like them to be soft on my hands, and not too long that my charge can get too far in front of me. Slip leads are also in my equipment kit, especially if a dog slips its collar; you can make a slip lead from your regular lead by threading the clip through the handle in emergencies.

Harnesses. Some dogs have to wear harnesses for medical reasons, there are non pulling harnesses that can work really well if fitted properly. The only down side to harnesses if used inappropriately is that they can make your dog even stronger. Always make sure your dog’s harness is fitted correctly because if they are not, your dog may be able to back out of it. And keep an eye on their under arms and rub points as they can cause hair loss, redness & discomfort (usually when fitted incorrectly).

Head Halters. These use the same principle as a halter on a horse, when the dog pulls in the wrong direction they are put off balance until they come back to you. There are many brands on the market, do some research before you decide on which one is best for you – the simple designs are easier to use. This would be one of my favourite pieces of exercise equipment, and while dogs often take a little while to get used to this method, once they do, it make for a very pleasant walk or run. Make sure your halter is fitted by a professional, some also come with a DVD so you can make sure you are using it correctly and never correct or check your dog when it is in a head halter as you can do damage to their neck.

Tags. Make sure your dog wears a tag with your details on their collar. If your dog goes missing who ever finds them can call you straight away.

Poo Bags. Make sure you have a supply of waste bags with you, everyone hates stepping in one and the fines are getting more and more pricey!


Happy Paws Fitness is a unique initiative, combining Doggy Daycare, Puppy School and Personalised Fitness Programs to ensure they meet their ‘Pawlosophy’ of “A dog that can run, play and behave like a dog is a happy dog.” 

If you’re keen to find out more information or want a personalised health and fitness program for your pooch, please visit the Happy Paws Fitness Website.

Copy: Serena Faber Nelson

Photography: Happy Paws Fitness

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Comments (5)

5 responses to “Your 2012 Fitness Plan – for You & Your Dog”

  1. Maggie says:

    So inspiring! 🙂
    Just wanted to add that with bigger breeds prone to hip dysplasia (apparently) you should never walk or let a puppy run too much on a regular basis. Until they are 1 their bones are not fully developed yet. It’s hard to resist the temptation when pups have so much energy and fun outside, but our puppy school teacher strongly advised to not walk our labradoodle Lara for longer than half an hour at a time, and only increase it to an hour once she is over a year old.

  2. Amy- Happy Paws Fitness says:

    Oh Maggie, you are so right, i forgot to mention age appropriate exercise!
    Some large breeds can take up to three years to finish growing. In that time you don’t want to be doing any long term damage to their growing bones with lengthy structured exercise.
    If you’re unsure what your breed can handle ask your vet.
    Hip Dysplasia is no fun and early onset from too much strenuous exercise is even worse.

  3. […] here we are at the end of our Fresh Start 2012. Do you feel more organised? More Active? Healthier? Happier? I hope so! And you know what? Even if you don’t just yet, go easy on […]

  4. Alexandra says:

    We started swimming with our puppy (golden doodle) to give him lots of exercise after our vet advised us not to let him run for too long. & advised us when he is playing with other dogs and is running for a long time we should make him stop and rest for 15 min intervals just to make sure we don’t have problems in the future. Just wanted to share a bit of advice with all of you 😀

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Pick of the Week

  • Canvas Dog Carrier by Cloud7

    Canvas Dog Carrier by Cloud7

    Traveling with your best friend never looked so good. Soft, chic & sustainably made, there’s room for your pooch and all their on-the-go essentials.