Canine Fitness and Nutrition

Dogs feel their best when they have a healthy lifestyle that balances diet and exercise. Same as us humans! It can be hard to make sure that your furry friend stays active and eats right. We’ve gathered some helpful tips that are easy and fun ways for your dog to stay healthy. Through both our certified, professional canine trainers as well as our Community Clinic veterinarians, we bring you the best of canine fitness and nutrition!


Before starting any kind of canine fitness program with your dog, you always want to talk to your veterinarian first. It’s important to know beforehand if your pup is healthy enough for routine exercise. Your pup shouldn’t have any underlying conditions, diseases, or physical injuries that could impact the exercise’s positive benefits. Even if your dog is cleared by a vet, if they’re not used to getting a lot of physical exercise on a daily basis, take it slow initially. It’s just like with going to the gym. You don’t want to push too far on their first week – you don’t want your dog to pull a muscle!

two dogs playing a fitness game

Fitness Games:

Group Play. One of the easiest and most fun ways for your dog to get exercise is group play! If your dog is friendly with other dogs, find canine friends and let them have a good romp chasing, wrestling, and hanging out together. This is both a good physical and mental exercise for your dog!

Swimming. Once the weather is warm enough, allowing your dog to swim is a great way for them to get their heart rate up. If you have a dog who loves the water, there are no shortage of options! Open up the pool for them, take them to local rivers or lakes, or even the shallow end of the ocean. Swimming works so many muscles in your dog’s body and can also be a great way to cool down!

Fetch. Playing fetch is a great way for your dog to stay active and fit (and give you a little workout too!). Throwing a ball or toy back and forth really builds up cardio and gets their heart pumping. If your dog isn’t into fetch, you can also throw some low calorie treats (which we’ll talk about soon!) around the yard. They’ll very likely go after those!

Tug-of-War. This is a great game to play with your dog to get them to move around and work their muscles. Tug can actually be quite physical and require your dog to move their whole body. Just be mindful not to go too hard as playing tug can sometimes strain a dog’s neck. You can also throw the tug toy for them to fetch, adding more exercise into the game!

Fitness Training:

A brindle dog stands with front paws on a bucket during training class.

Power Walks. If you want to get serious about your dog’s fitness and weight control, you can take them on power walks. A leisurely walk around the neighborhood let’s them stop and sniff and greet people. However, a power walk requires your dog to walk alongside you at a faster pace without stopping. We recommend using a harness for this activity and keeping your dog on a short leash. This will be a great workout for you as well!

Doggy Pushups. Pushups are a great way to build muscle, but did you know dogs can do them as well? Doggy pushups require you to ask your your dog to sit, then to lie down, then to sit again from a lying position. It makes your dog have to push their body up and down. And it works their brain for a good mental exercise. Make sure to treat your dog for their hard work (perhaps using some tasty alternatives listed above!)

Paws Up. The training technique of ‘paws up’ is just like ‘step on-step off’ for us humans. Aerobics, anyone? With paws up, train your dog to place their front two paws up on a lift (such as a stack of books or short footstool) and then have them step back down. Repeating this technique over and over again works out your dog’s muscles as well as their brain. To add an extra challenge, have your dog step up on a big pillow, couch cushion, or something not as stable so as to work their balance as well!


Just like with exercise, you’ll want to consult your vet before changing your dog’s diet or adding anything new. Low calories treats, however, can be quite beneficial for your dog. They really can help them to lose weight as well as gain some extra vitamins and minerals. Our vets recommend trading out more traditional dog treats for these healthy alternatives:

  • Carrots
  • Celerey
  • Zucchini
  • Various Melons
  • Apples
  • Blueberries
  • Plain Popcorn
  • Dehydrated Sweet Potato
  • Green Beans

If your dog enjoys these healthy foods but still has problems managing their weight, our vets suggest using a slow feeder or puzzle bowl during mealtimes. This will slow down their eating and fill them up faster. If your dog is struggling with feeling hungry in-between meals, offer them water as an alternative (some dogs fall for it!). Or distract them with play until it’s time to eat. Lastly, if you usually feed your dog only once or twice a day, divide their meals up into multiple smaller meals throughout the day. This will help keep them feeling full!

We hope you found our canine fitness and nutrition tips helpful and beneficial for your dog. We always want to make sure our canine companions stay happy, healthy, and out of harms way!