Like majority of the humans of America, dogs are now battling one of our worst enemies: obesity. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimates that over 50 percent of dogs are now overweight and over 20 percent are obese. While it’s difficult to point fingers when it comes to human obesity, we can probably all agree that our dogs can’t be held responsible for their weight gain. Like people, overweight dogs are at risk for health problems, from arthritis to heart disease. This is one challenge you and your pet can face together. The best way to overcome this is through these exercises for you and your dog.
Dogs never complain about hills or cancel on you last-minute, and they’re always stoked to follow you out the door. That energy can actually be contagious! Research from Michigan State University found that canine owners were 34% more likely to get the recommended minutes of exercise a week than those who didn’t have a dog. Now that you know how exciting working out is when you do it with your best friend, here are some of the best exercises for you and your dog to enjoy as part of your workout routine.
Before you tie your runners’ shoelaces, it is always best to be aware of necessary precautions to avoid untoward incidents.
Check with your vet.
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Be aware of possible exercise-related conditions your dog’s breed may have. Deep-chested breeds, for example, such as Danes or Doberman pinschers, are at higher risk than other dogs of developing a serious condition called gastric dilation-volvulus (GDV), which is associated with large meals. Because of this life-threatening condition, deep-chested breeds should not exercise right after a meal. Before carrying out these exercises for you and your dog, step one should be taking a trip to the vet. Your vet can evaluate your dog for any heart, lung, or other health problems. It’s also important to check for signs of arthritis or musculoskeletal diseases. A dog with inflamed joints or ligaments may require a low-impact exercise plan.
Establish a routine.
The workout routine you’ll adopt should be realistic. Consider your job schedule and other demands on your time. More importantly, also consider your dog’s needs. Working breeds and young dogs usually need a lot of exercise. Start with a short-term goal of exercising just 5 or 10 minutes every day. Gradually work up to 30 minutes on most days of the week.
Do not overexercise.
Watch for signs that one of you may be overdoing it. You may be working too hard if you are too breathless to carry on a conversation. Your dog may be overworked if they are breathing fast, panting excessively, staggering, or refusing to follow you. If either of you are stiff, sore, or exhausted for hours after a workout, take it easier next time.
Just like us, dogs are prone to dehydration and heat exhaustion. On hot days, bring a water bottle and a foldable drinking bowl. Choose to do exercises for you and your dog in places with a public water source. Signs of dehydration in dogs include excessive panting, confusion, weakness, and collapse. Short-faced breeds, such as bulldogs and boxers, are especially vulnerable because they don’t pant efficiently.
Protect their paws.
Did you know that long walks on rough surfaces can hurt your dog’s paws? You may want to start slowly. If you work your way up to longer walks, most dogs will develop thicker pads on their feet and not have problems. On hot days, avoid too much contact with asphalt or sand. On snowy days, you have to check their paws from time to time for ice buildup. And if you venture onto very rough surfaces, consider buying a set of dog booties.
Best Exercises for You and Your Dog
Now let’s get to the fun part. Burn the fat and make getting fit fun through these exercises for you and your dog.
Hopefully you’re already walking your dog daily. Benefits of brisk walking include a stronger heart, lower blood pressure, more energy, denser bones, and a lower risk of depression. In dogs, regular walks can also reduce common behavior problems. There’s no set rule for how far or how long a dog should walk. Just work slowly toward a goal and gradually increase your speed and how far you walk.
Jogging or running
Like any other intense or high-impact sport, ease your pup into jogging and running. This may be one of the most enjoyable, go-to exercises for you and your dog, but just like you, dogs need to get in shape over time. Find a track that welcomes dogs and make sure your have comfortable running shoes. That is all you need for this cardio workout.
If you want to jog with your dog, choose a breed that is suited to distance running, such as a Labrador. Wait until your pup is full grown and then gradually build up to a 30-minute excursion. Note that not all dogs are built to jog. Greyhounds, for example, may be pros at short-distance sprinting, but they can get tired during long-distance runs.
If long walks or jogs don’t entice you, you may try dancing with your dog. Also called musical freestyle, choreograph a dance routine to upbeat music. You’ll have your best friend running between your legs and performing tricks, while both of you get an aerobic workout. The benefits of dance include burning calories and developing greater stamina, better balance, lower blood pressure, and improved muscle tone and bone density.
Hiking is a little different than other activities, since you are essentially on your own out there, especially if you’re doing a big hiking trip. For hikes, you always want to have an ID tag on your pup, bring plenty of water, and ideally, carry a first aid kit. Plan ahead. Having the right gear—like GPS trackers—can mean the difference between a good and bad experience. Start off with shorter, less intense hikes and work your way up. Even though you’re just walking, hikes can get hilly and hard. It’s best to build up fitness before attempting the more strenuous hikes.
Swimming is an all-in-one workout that is especially beneficial for dogs with arthritis. Because it’s a low-impact sport, swimming is easy on the joints. But that doesn’t mean it’s a wimpy workout. Swimming works various muscle groups all over the body, improves endurance, and strengthens the heart and lungs. Not all dogs enjoy swimming though, so start slowly. Use toys or treats for encouragement, and if your dog still resists, find another sport.
Whether it’s a ball, a Frisbee, or his favorite toy, go outside and play a game of catch. Throw the ball, and your pup goes bounding after it. But who says you have to just stand there? While your best friend is retrieving the toy, do lunges, abdominal crunches, and more—until you’re both panting and worn out. Better yet, race with your dog for the ball to squeeze in some sprints. Fetch can be a game you play too!
Frisbee is another classic canine workout. You can play a relaxed game in your own yard or join a formal Frisbee competition. Participating in competitions can give you and your dog greater motivation to practice regularly while working on your training, goals, and your relationship with your pet.
People who like roller-skating may be hesitant to bring their pup along. Nobody wants to be yanked off the sidewalk while skating all because Fido found a squirrel. But experts say roller-skating with your leashed dog can be safe with proper training. The goal is to have your dog run right next to you without pulling on the leash. You may be able to encourage this behavior by giving them treats whenever they run without yanking you around.
If you plan on taking your best friend biking, make sure you have a safe attachment for your bike—one with a quick release in case of emergency. Be prepared to spend some time getting your dog used to a bike and learning how to navigate next to it. Before you go on your first ride with your dog, take them on a few trial walks to get them used to it. Walk on the right side of the bike with your dog on the left. Try stopping, speeding up, turning, and moving over for cars. During this time, it’s helpful to instill verbal cues like “let’s go” and “easy.” These will come in handy during your rides. Again, start slow.
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