Getting Fit and Rid of the Fat with your Dog
Great Ideas to Get Fit With Your Furry Best Friend
Some people think a chubby dog is cute, but obesity undermines a pet’s health. A stunning 54% of dogs are obese or overweight according to the Association for Pet Obesity and Prevention. This is reducing their life expectancy by two and a half years. The occurrence of serious disease increases with extra weight. This includes, Heart and respiratory conditions, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and cancer. Extra weight also takes its toll on knees and hips. The same effects experienced by overweight people plague dogs. Each year, millions of people receive diagnoses of high blood pressure, anxiety, and weight gain. Even if you are not one of them, maybe it is time to resolve, “I am doing it. I am getting fit with my dog.” After all, working out with a dog is a great way to bond while getting healthier. You don’t have to spend a lot of money and you won’t need a club membership.
Here are a few ideas to get started.
It is an excellent low impact exercise. According to Pet Obesity Prevention, dog walking is a proven way to lose weight. Owners who regularly walk their dogs report health benefits and weight loss. They often felt guilty if they didn’t walk their dogs, which was a reinforcing mechanism. If that wasn’t enough, their dogs probably reminded them as well! Dog owners are far more likely to get at least one-half hour of exercise, five days per week.
Set reasonable expectations for you and your dog, gradually increasing time and distance. Remind yourself that you are setting a goal. It is not a race.
If you are up to it and your dog likes to run, this great cardio exercise will burn calories! This might not be a good exercise for a dog with bad knees, hips, or health issue so you might check with your vet. If you’ve been walking and step by step, increasing the distance, maybe jog a little distance. Alternate between walking and jogging. You need to watch your dog for signs of overexertion. Be sure to offer water, and start your running program slowly.
Tug of War
This game is a favorite with dogs for time immemorial. An enthusiastic game can provide a full body workout for both of you. If your dog is aggressive or known to bite, this is probably not the exercise for you. Also, dogs with back and hip issues problems should not be pulled. Check with your vet if you have any concerns.
This is another all-time favorite requiring only a Frisbee, ball, or stick. It might turn into a game of chase if you haven’t trained your dog to hand over the ball. It’s all in good fun.
This fun training can include many options. Including jumping through tires, running through tunnels, weaving through sticks and walking teeter-boards. Different groups often offer classes. You can also set up your own course with materials you scavenge from garage sales or things you have at home. Start slow as your dog learns to navigate the obstacles. Be patient and creative, but have fun.
Your dog will need training to be around bikes, and must know and obey commands, for your dog’s safety and that of other people. Ride using a bicycle dog leash to keep the dog a safe distance way and a harness. Protect your dog’s paw pads and bring water for the trip. If you plan to use a carrier, place it on the floor and train your dog to get into it before graduating to putting it on the bike. Don’t ride with your dog in the carrier until your dog is comfortable and enjoys it.
This activity is not suitable for all breeds and not all dogs like water! It’s not going to be fun if you are forcing a dog to do something he doesn’t enjoy. But if you have a water loving dog, some time at the lake might be the ticket. You might invest in a couple of floating toys for retrieval. Flotation devices and a rope for reeling in the dog are good ideas.
Backpacking or Hiking
Review the paragraph on walking above, but add a backpack, water, and maybe some snacks. Do take the normal precautions in the wild as you never know what wild animals or people you may meet. Use a leash as you will be sharing the trail with other hikers and animals.
This winter sport involves putting on some cross country skis, wearing a wide belt, and harnessing yourself to a large, furry dog or two. You can use a regular dog harness and get booties to protect their paw pads on the icy trail. Do practice and train without wearing skis, taking the time to teach your dog(s) to ignore distractions. You do not want to face an unpleasant encounter with a moose or other dogs. Find a dog friendly trail when you and your dog(s) are ready to go; many groomed trails do not allow dogs. Be cautious about sharing a snow machine trail; the machines zipping by can scare your dog, making it dangerous for the riders and you. Some variations include bikejoring and grassjoring.
You can try the traditional dog sled type exercise, or take your dog to the regular sled hill with the kids. The latter takes a lot less equipment and training. Some dogs like to ride on the sled, but usually just running up and down the hill, joining in the fun, will give your dog a workout. This is obviously not a great exercise for those little toy dogs, leave them at home so they don’t get hurt. Larger dogs with good fur coats are the target audience here.
Okay, so only you get to ride the horse, but many people, their horses, and dogs enjoy doing this together. If you are horse person and your animals are used to each other, this can be a pleasant way to take to the trails for fresh air and scenery.
The opportunities for working out with a dog are endless. We’ve all seen the videos of dogs jumping on trampolines, riding skateboards, surfing, and even dancing. Get your dog active and take part! You both reap the benefits of better physical and emotional well-being. Take every chance to spend time with your best friend and make great memories. Make it a resolution, “I am getting fit with my dog!” Tell ‘em the doctor prescribes it!