Aussies get fat easily – they’re very efficient with what they take in and they are very successful at asking for more. They usually have an excellent off-switch, meaning that they are prone to lie around and do nothing without you engaging them with activities. All of this spells out F-A-T.
But, their desire to engage with you also makes them ideal exercise companions for people on the go. They have a tendency to not want to wander too far off from you on jaunts and train well for any activity. I personally take my dogs climbing, running, mountain biking, and skiing.
You’ll get a lot of differing advice out there on what’s best for your dogs, but my rule of thumb is simply to read your dogs as you exercise. Whether you’re starting out with a puppy or a new adoption of an adult, you need to work on “legging them up” – getting them in shape for what you want to do with them. It’s not fair to take a dog on a ten mile hike if it generally sits in the house. Dogs have better lung capacity than people, more stable joints, and can cover good distance (and faster) than people, but only if they’re in shape.
Watch your dog’s behavior as you exercise – do they ask for breaks, find shade, or feel slothy? Call it a day. Perhaps their conformation is the problem – if they have joint issues or poorly built bodies, things like distance running, jumping, etc can really take it out of them. Dogs like this need regimented exercise programs to be their best – swimming, stretching, and careful management is important.
If your dog is otherwise fit to do activities, do so without reservation, but constantly monitor their performance. Never pull a dog or force them into situations. Dogs not used to a running, hiking, or climbing environment may need time to adjust to the unique demands of your activities. Consider them as children – new encounters and demands need time and learning.
Also remember that dogs do not have as efficient cooling systems as you do. Dogs will start to melt in 75 degree weather when you’re at your peak. In the cold, when you’ve got your parka on, they’re good to go. If your dog is straining, panting hard, or searching for shade, it’s a good idea to abort mission and not take them on adventures until the temperatures are better. If that’s not an option, go slowly. They can overheat quickly with even moderate exercise in warm weather.
And remember, just as you like a good massage – so does your dog! Learn how!