Fortunately, dogs don't have to worry about getting into a bathing suit or the flab around their arm muscles or "muffin tops." However, it is good for both you and your dog to stay in shape and at a healthy weight. A recent survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) found that 53 percent of adult dogs and 55 percent of cats were considered overweight or obese by their veterinarian. Estimates on adults are not much better: 66 percent of people are overweight in America.
The good news is that dog owners are more likely to be fitter and healthier than their pooch-free peers. New research from Michigan State University reports that people with canine companions are 34 percent more likely to get the recommended 150 minutes of exercise a week than are folks with other pets (sorry, kitties) or none at all.
Dogs are not only your best friends, but can be your best fitness friends as well! Think about it; they won't cancel on you like some of your friends will. Working out with your dog doesn't have to be limited to just running or throwing a ball or Frisbee. The great thing about exercising with a pet is that you don't need a gym and you don't need expensive equipment. All you need is a good pair of shoes, a leash and you're off!
Here's some tips for a great exercise program for you and your dog:
- Start out slow. It's a misconception that dogs are born to run. Just like humans, they can suffer sprains and muscle aches. Start out slow and work your way up to more challenging or longer workouts as you build your stamina. For the first 2 weeks, your goal can be to walk 5 to 10 minutes twice a day, working up to 30 minutes at a time. Start with stretches (for both of you) and end with a cool-down period of slower walking.
- Go For A Swim. Most dogs love to swim and being in a pool or lake can be refreshing. Swimming is especially good for dogs that need a low-impact option, such as dogs that are overweight. However, remember that some dogs can't swim ... greyhounds sink because of their low body weight!
- Be creative. Dogs don't necessarily need an exercise regime. They will love to chase bubbles, play hide and seek or even "fetch". Remember that many dogs crave adventure, and many breeds are perfect hiking, biking, or in-line skating buddies. Train your dog to stay to one side of you versus darting in front causing both of you to trip.
- Put safety first. It's important to remember that as the temperature increases, so does the risk of heat stroke, or dehydration. Some common symptoms to look for are excessive panting and increased salivation. Make sure you always carry water with you in case none is available where you are exercising.