It’s a new year and a time when many people are wanting to get active and improve their fitness. However, the days are still short, and the weather makes summer feel like a distant dream. An enthusiastic and reliable training partner can make the difference between getting outside and sticking to the couch when you feel uninspired. So, who better to join you on your fitness journey than your loyal pet? In this article we hope to give you a few ideas to help you get out and about with your dog as well as some advice on how to do it safely.
No matter what age or breed your dog is, a health check with one of our vets is essential before embarking on a weight loss and exercise program. Firstly, this will allow you to weigh your pet to determine if they are overweight. If they are found to be above ideal weight, then our vets can advise a rate of weight loss to aim for that is sustainable and healthy. Being overweight can put pets more at risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, osteoporosis and diabetes later in life so it is important to address the problem as early as possible. Secondly, a physical examination will be done to make sure that your pet’s heart and joints are in good condition and safe to start building up their activity levels.
It is also worth discussing with our vets the best type and amount of exercise for your dog’s age and breed. Different dog breeds will be suited to different intensities and volumes of exercise, so it is important to pick one suitable for your dog’s breed. Over exercising can be damaging to young growing dogs. Generally, it is recommended that they can do 5 minutes of exercise daily per month of age, however more strenuous activity such as running may be best saved for 18 months of age when they are fully grown.
No matter what type of activity you choose to do with your pet you need to start small and build up gradually. You wouldn’t start marathon training by running a marathon so don’t expect your pet to be able to. Not only will building up exercise slowly make it more enjoyable for you and your pet it will also reduce the chance of either of you getting injured. If you are already used to exercising without your dog, then you may need to cut back a bit to allow them to catch up. However, once you are both at the same level you will have an enthusiastic and loyal training partner.
The simplest way to get out and about with your dog is by walking. Using a map or following a marked trail can allow you to explore new and exciting places with your dog all over the country with little to no cost and minimal equipment required. You can vary the intensity by increasing the pace, exploring hilly terrain and upping the distance. Choosing locations where your dog can run free off the lead will increase the amount of energy they burn in the same time as they cover a greater distance at a higher speed. Walking is suitable for most dog breeds and a great place to start your joint fitness journey.
Running with your dog is the logical next step up from walking. By increasing your moving speed, you can burn more energy and cover more distance in a shorter time providing a great cardio workout for both you and your dog. You may choose to run with your dog off the lead or use a specially designed bungee style lead that attaches around your waist. Many running events exist across the country that allow runners to run with dogs including some parkruns. However, other dogs and large crowds of people will be present at these events, so they are unsuitable for dogs that dislike other dogs or large crowds. Running may not be suitable for all breeds, so it is a good idea to check with your vet before starting to run with your dog.
If you are looking for a more organised activity, then agility can be a great option. There are many places that offer agility training for owners and their dogs. Dog agility provides your dog with an excellent workout as they complete the course and all the obstacles. It will also give you a workout as you run alongside your dog. Not only does agility test fitness but it is also an excellent way to train obedience as you and your dog work together across different obstacles.
There are many other ways to get out and active with your dog and we have only begun to explore a few of these here. If you do decide to start exercising with your pet, then don’t forget to get the all clear from your vet and build up slowly to avoid any injuries. Don’t forget that if weight loss is a goal for your dog then diet will also play an important part and is worth discussing with our vets. Fitness and weight loss aren’t the only things to gain from getting out and about with your pet. You will also develop a closer bond with your pet from more quality time spent together. Hopefully, we’ve been able to give you some ideas here to get you and your pets out and about together.