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By now, you’re probably a boss at home-fitness. And good on you. From daily indoor bodyweight workouts to creative recovery smoothies, you’ve got your routine to train, think and eat like a Spartan totally dialed. But what about your furry friend? It’s critical that you take your pup’s training as seriously as your own. No excuses.
“Active people tend to have active dogs that need a lot of exercise,” says Mark Ruark, a Colorado-based APDT-certified trainer who has helped endurance athletes train their pups for over 35 years. The key to training an active dog, he says, is to find balance between physical exercise, mental stimulation and rest. “It’s important to exercise your pet and give it the space it needs to maintain a healthy attachment to you.” (Being around your pet 24/7 can lead to separation-anxiety issues, which are tough to break, he says. The antidote? Brief periods of kennel time throughout the day between training sessions.)
The principles and skills needed to train a Spartan pup are no different than those which motivate you to haul your butt across the finish line: grit, determination and perseverance. “Remember, we are animals— us and our pets—we both have to get after it,” says Spartan CEO Joe De Sena. “That means wrestling in the living room, racing up and down the stairs several times a day, and even playing some tug of war! Any animal in confinement becomes unhealthy over time, so we have to be creative to [train] together.”
Plus, according to the CDC, having your pet around actually decreases your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, soothes feelings of loneliness, and makes you feel more connected — now more important than ever.
The good news? There are simple tricks you can do at home to engage your pet and train it to be strong in mind, body and spirit—just like you. Here, our three-step canine training guide (consider it basic bootcamp!) that’ll make your dog Spartan strong, starting now.
Ways to Exercise Your Pet: The Puppy Workout Plan
WORK OUT: Go for a Long (No, Longer Than That!) Hike
During a time when staying fit feels more challenging than ever, an isolated hike outside goes a long way for both you and your dog. If you have access to an unpopulated trail system near your home, take advantage of it. Crush that single track as long, and as far, as you and your pup can, allowing yourselves to become exhausted and off-gas any angst. “I just love hiking with a dog and then collapsing when I get back home,” says De Sena. Add a long hike with your dog 3-4 times per week to your established workout regimen. Bonus: you’ll score killer cross training that beats the same ol’ lap around the block.
BUILD GRIT: Play Indoor Mind Games
Tasks, or “doing”, is a big stress release for dogs, according to Ruark. Get creative. Excite them with toys or tug of war. Stuff your dog’s bones and kongs with hard-to-reach turkey-flavored training treats. (Don’t have treats on hand? Peanut butter is a solid pantry go-to, but beware: it’s messy.)
Believe it or not, you can also play hide and seek with your pup. How? Show it a toy. Have a family member hold the dog in a sit/stay, and place their hand over its eyes. Hide the toy in the room. Release the pup and when it sniffs out the toy, “throw a big praise party,” says Ruark. “Do this two or three times, keep the game short and sweet until they get addicted.” Once your dog knows how to play hide and seek, you can start hiding toys in other rooms to make the game more challenging.
RECOVER SMART: Use Working Commands to Help Your Pet Relax
While pups don’t foam roll or slurp protein smoothies, they do need rehab and R&R, too. Use working commands to help your dog wind down, stimulate its mind and reinforce your training at the same time. “Just like some athletes, dogs have a hard time relaxing when they’re home. Especially if they’re always active with us,” says Ruark. “You have to help them learn to relax at home when you relax, and differentiate ‘outside’ as an active place, and ‘inside’ as a generally calm place.”
Practice what Ruark calls “down/stays” as an easy, effective method to do this. Call your dog to come and go down by your feet. Once they relax on the floor, command them to stay. Positively reinforce their stay by giving them a few tiny training treats between their paws in increasing time intervals.
PRO TIP: If you have a young pup who’s not used to training this way, start with 5-10 seconds, increasing time between treats as they learn that yes, relaxing is good, too. If you have an older dog who knows the drill, reward them every so often (30-60 minutes, as long as you have them in the stay, says Ruark) with a big reward, like heart-healthy jerky strips.