If you’re feeling the urge to spend some time in the cool spring sun, or you’re starting to worry about the effect of all those delicious winter foods on your body then it’s time to get out and about and exercise. And who better to support you and encourage you out than your canine best friend?
Obesity in dogs is on the rise with over 50% classed as obese in one study. Obesity increases the risk of heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, cancer, and several other serious conditions. Obesity is so common it is becoming normalised- it is common for people with dogs of a perfect body weight to get people commenting that they are too skinny, and it can be tricky to decide if a dog is overweight or not. The huge range in sizes both between and within breeds means we can’t give you a weight to aim for- we need to assess each dog as an individual.
We recommend that every pet is brought to the clinic for a Spring weigh in and weight assessment with one of our nurses. We can then assess your dog’s weight and give you some recommendations. Don’t worry, we’re not here to judge- but we do want what’s best for your pet, and that’s getting rid of that excess weight! We can give you a structured weight loss plan, recommend diet changes, and suggest exercise at a safe level for your dog.
If you do decide to take the step to exercise a little more, first check that it’s ok to take your dog with you. If your dog is stiff in the joints, has a cough, doesn’t seem to want to exercise, or has a known medical condition it’s best to check in with one of our vets to get an opinion on how much exercise they can safely do. We can give them a check over and make sure everything is ok, then once you’ve got the all clear it’s time to spring into action!
Here are some of our favourite dog-friendly exercise types:
Walking is great exercise for both you and your dog. In fact, one study that included obese pets with obese owners showed that people with dogs are more likely to stick to an exercise program, spending almost double the amount of time exercising each week. For all dogs, a nice walk twice daily is important for their physical and mental health, but the length and difficulty of that walk needs to be tailored to your dog’s fitness.
Jogging with your dog is an excellent way to get both of you moving. For those short of time, running means you can cover a much larger distance with your dog before needing to get to that important meeting. Beware the ‘trot’ in dogs though- this is the least energy-intense way for a dog to move, so although it looks like they’re exercising hard, they’re actually putting in very little effort! Try getting them to truly run by throwing a ball or a frisbee. To keep them guessing, try switching direction at speed so they have to pay more attention to what’s going on. If you find simple jogging too easy, try finding a dog-friendly mud running course!
Although this exercise is designed for your dog not you, any agility leader will have you running the course alongside your dog in order to encourage them- just look at the trainers at Crufts to see how much moving they have to do! It’s a great sport for young adult dogs of any breed and it stimulates them mentally as well as keeping them fit. It’s also very sociable for you and a great way to meet new people. Be warned though- it’s seriously addictive!
If you have a well-trained dog, cycling is one way to get both of you out and about at full-tilt and get your heart rate up! It’s best to only cycle if you can trust your dog to stick close to you without getting under your wheels. Try it slowly on soft ground to begin with if you aren’t sure. Leads that attach to your seat are available if this helps.
Are you going to make a resolution to get both you and your pet fitter this Spring? Don’t forget to give us a call and get booked in for a weight check so that we can give you all the advice you need about exercising safely.