How to get fit with your dog

What's it all about?

Get Fit With Fido is a Kennel Club campaign to encourage dog owners to exercise with their dogs. It's widely believed that pet owners are happier and healthier than the rest of the population, but the truth may be more complicated. Indeed, a recent Kennel Club survey found that more than a third of dog owners are overweight. Given that the same survey found that almost a quarter of dogs are also overweight, and a fifth don't get a daily walk, the solution seems obvious.

So it's just about going walkies?

Far from it, but walking is a good place to start. Every dog should have at least one walk a day, and their owners will benefit from a low-intensity cardiovascular workout too. Dog walking is also a sociable activity and a good way to meet people, so it may also benefit your mental health.

I'm bored of walking. What now?

Unless you live in beautiful surroundings, a daily (or twice daily) dog walk can get a little repetitive. But there are lots of other activities you can do with your dog: agility (show jumping for dogs); flyball (a doggy team sport); heelwork to music; obedience training; working trials (heptathlon for dogs). Find more details here.

Hmm. I'm not really that sort of dog owner. What else?

Once you've built up a basic level of fitness through walking, you can try running with your dog. CaniX, canine cross-country running, is a good place to start. You can alternate between walking and running at first, building up to a 2.5k race. When you get the hang of running with a regular collar and lead, you might want to invest in a special harness that attaches around your waist. Then you can train your dog to take the lead, while you focus on your speed and technique. You can enter events across a whole range of distances, from 10k to ultra-marathons. Find out more at cani-cross.co.uk.

What if I'm an urban exerciser?

Parks are great places to run with your dog. If you live in a big city, plan a route that takes you to two or three different parks. Even better, leave it to the experts. I borrowed a border collie, Dream (pictured, left) and went out with Argy Giatras from London Sightseeing Runs. For £25, a personal trainer will take you and your dog out in a small group (no more than five runners) for a guided tour of London. You set the pace, from a power walk to a sprint, so you don't have to be super-fit.

We went on the Parks and Palaces route. It was a grey, drizzly day, but Dream was so happy to be running through the autumn leaves in Hyde park that it spurred me on too. Running with a dog is similar to interval training: go slowly as they drink from a puddle, sprint as they chase a squirrel, jog on towards another dog … It was so much fun that I forgot to get tired.

One of the best things about a sightseeing run is learning more about your city. As it was 11 November and we had a dog with us, we visited the Animals in War Memorial in Park Lane. This moving memorial pays tribute to the animals that have died in 20th century conflicts, from horses, dogs and pigeons to elephants, camels and even glow worms. Dozens of wreaths had been left by animal charities, which brought a lump to the throat.

That sounds good, but I don't live in London

If you want to come to the capital with your dog, or go anywhere in the UK, check out the Open For Dogs website. It's a searchable database of dog-friendly accommodation, pubs, beaches and more (you have to register, but it's free). The more your dog goes out and about, the more socialised it will become, which will make your life much easier.

We took tea at the Milestone in Kensington. It's a swanky five-star hotel overlooking Kensington Gardens, but is incredibly welcoming to dogs – and cats, too. Pets are provided with a hamper on arrival, a custom-made bed, a turndown service at bedtime, and a special menu. There are even dog-sitters on demand, grooming services and a doggy first aid kit. Make sure your pet is well-trained, though – the furniture is too smart to scratch.

What more do I need to know?

The Discover Dogs show at Earls Court, London, this weekend is a great opportunity to find out more about canine activities. There will be more than 200 breeds of dog to meet, plus shopping, agility displays and expert seminars. It is the culmination of London Dog Week. Tickets cost £13 on the door; find out more at discoverdogs.org.uk.

Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.