Veterinarian Reviewed on April 15, 2009 by Dr. Janice Huntingford
During the springtime, most people attempt to lose the pounds they gained during the winter for a sleeker body for the summer time. This should stand true for your pets as well, particularly dogs who have remained inside the house during most of the winter.
A recent study that was done by the Association of Pet Obesity Prevention stated that 45 percent of dogs are overweight, including 9 percent that are truly obese, according to Ernie Ward, DVM, and president of the association.
Exercising with your dog will not only help the both of you to lose weight, but it will also help to improve your relationship as well. By spending such quality time with your dog you both will benefit from the emotional and physical aspects of exercising together.
One of the easiest ways for you and your dog to lose weight is by walking, but not just a leisurely stroll. In order to get the maximum benefit of walking, you will need to learn to differentiate between walking for pleasure and walking for fitness. Dr Ward explains it this way:
“When people take their dogs out for social walks, we find they typically do about an 18-22 minute per mile pace. That is slower than you can walk because you’re stopping. The dog is checking the urine from another dog. A twig gets his attention.
Walking for weight loss is different. We really need to get them into that aerobic heart rate zone. We don’t really tell people to measure heart rates on their dog, but we can tell them if it’s anything more than a 15-a-minute-per-mile pace, they’re probably not walking (for weight loss). A 15-minute-per-mile walk for a person feels like a good, brisk, steady walk.”
Dr Ward also stated that dogs should be taught that the first half of a walk should be focused on exercising and the second half will then be for the dog to explore the different sights and sounds that he see and smells on the way back home.
“If people would start to train their dogs this way, they will find the dog will get very focused,” Dr Ward said, “They will get out there and briskly walk, and they will know when it’s time to turn around. And when they turn around, they start to head back to the house, they start to check all those interesting smells and sights and sounds.”
Before heading out the door with your dog for a walk, consider the following points first:
* Make sure that both you and your dog have the correct walking gear. Instead of using your dog’s regular collar and leash, which can compress the windpipe when pulled and cause difficulty breathing or even injury, use a walking harness that has wide, soft, padded straps and is made of breathable materials. A retractable leash that is about 12 feet is perfect to keep your dog close by to maintain a steady walking pace.
*In conjunction with the walking harness, a head halter is also another great way to train your dog to heel during an invigorating walk and to pay attention to your commands.
*Consider the season: during the colder, winter months make sure that your dog is wearing the correct size and fit of winter booties; during the warmer, summer months where the temperatures lie between 80 to 85 degrees, or even on walks that last longer than 30 minutes, make sure that you always bring a bottle of clean, cool water for both you and your dog to drink. Proper hydration is very important.
*Whilst walking, keep your dog close by your side, at least two to four feet on the side away from the street, and be sure to start at a pace that you feel that you and your dog can comfortably maintain. The perfect walk should be brisk and should cause you to break out into a light perspiration.
*Keep up the pace. Do not let your dog become intrigued with something on the ground. Be persistent with your dog and keep a tight rein on his leash, but never jerk it! Give your dog a strong command such as ‘No’ or ‘Come’ to keep his attention focused on the walk itself.
*Start your walking regimen slowly and try to eventually build up to walking at least 30 minutes per day.
*Weigh your dog on a monthly basis to make sure that he is not losing too much or too little.
*After every walk, check your dog’s paw pads and nails. Sometimes they can become ripped or torn whilst walking over gravel or twigs. Be sure to have some Heal Care Ointment on hand to apply to your dog’s paw pads to relieve any pain and discomfort they may have. You do not want your dog to associate your walks together with pain of any sort as that will prevent him from wanting to go out and walk with you again.
*Keep in mind that exercising is a very important part of a dog’s behavior training. Well exercised dogs are happy, albeit tired, dogs.
*Before you start a walking program with your dog, take him to your vet first for a physical examination. Talk with your vet about your dog’s current weight, his weight loss goal and whether brisk walking would be a good fit for your dog or not. Some breeds of dogs are not able to walk briskly and doing so could cause more damage to the dog’s lifestyle.
*Finally, remember to pick up after your dog and be observant of other doggie rules, especially if you are taking your dog for a walk around a public park.
Phot Credit: exfordy
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan