Hit The Deck Running

Tips on how to exercise your pet

November 2015 Feature Austa Cook

My sister Ashley, who doesn’t even tip the scale enough to donate blood (though she rebelliously snuck in wearing ankle weights before), loves jogging with her Great Dane/Mastiff, Henry. She gets all the winning comments from passersby when they see this petite girl and Clifford-esque dog go galloping by:

“That’s not a dog, that’s a horse!”

“Who’s walking whom?”

“Where’s the saddle?”

The originality goes on and on! But finding exercise for an enormous dog in a small space is the exact challenge all houseboaters face with their pets. Aside from long walks when you’re moored at the slip and can stretch out on land, what are some ways to siphon off all that crazy doggy energy when the Henrys out there need it?

Animal Planet gives some relatable tips on their website that are worth lending an ear. If you have a large upper deck, you can use the space to stretch out a little by making a fun agility course with deck chairs and whatever else you have on hand. Nose work exercises are another idea, where you hide treats in progressively harder places and give your Henry Jr. a chance to dash about and use his nose. There are actual treadmills dogs can try out if they don’t mind stationary scenery; look at Dog Pacer for some top-notch pet treadmills that range from $450 to $550. And if your dog is comfortable in the water, swimming is always great exercise.

When you can get on land, your options blossom with the space. Animal Planet says access to dog parks is always ideal, and some places like Lake Havasu Houseboats on Lake Havasu, Ariz., have off-leash dog parks close by—check out Lions Dog Park (928-453-8686), Dylan’s Dog Park (928-855-2116), or Avalon Park (928-855-2116). Jogs on the beach will also wear any pup out thanks to the shifting sand. Places like Outer Banks Houseboats in Beaufort, N.C., offer beaches to romp on; the beautiful Cape Lookout National Seashore and surrounding islands allow leashed dogs to freely explore.

Or you could try my favorite suggestion, skijoring! This Scandinavian sport has your dog pull you on skis with a dog harness and towline, but in warm weather people use this for rollerblading and skating. Of course, this would depend on the size, strength, and ability of your dog. A dachshund won’t have the towing power for much more than a Polly Pocket, whereas if Ashley hooked up Henry, I can only imagine we’d find her flying somewhere through Mexico with a rubber trail burned behind her, people yelling after, “¿Quién da una vuelta a quién?”

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