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Why You Should Exercise with Your Dog - A Fun Fitness Program!

Research Suggests People Who Exercise with Their Dog Stick to a Fitness Program

If your dog is fat, you aren’t getting enough exercise. —Unknown

Exercise with Your DogLook at the statistics for North American adults, and you will learn that roughly two out of three adults are overweight (69 percent) and one out of three of them are obese (36 percent). It’s not surprising with those stats that man’s best friend is battling obesity as well. Approximately 50% of dogs in the U.S. weigh too much. Similar to their humans, overweight or obese dogs are at risk for health problems, from arthritis, diabetes all the way to cardiovascular disease.  Research has suggested people who exercise with their dogs are more likely to stick to a fitness program.

Exercise With Your Dog

As dog owner’s we have all been there, you are heading out to the gym to get a good sweat going, look down and there is a sad pair of eyes looking up at you. Your heart twists as you promise your little furry best friend that you will be right back. Have you ever stopped to think of all the fantastic things you could do with your little buddy and the health benefits it could bring for both of you?  The key is finding activities you both enjoy!

Animals have specific limitations just the same as their human counterparts, so it is important to visit your local veterinarian to make sure your dog is ready for exercise. And don’t forget about you! If you are new to exercise, a doctor’s check-up is also in order before starting a new program. Also, if you don’t know how to exercise with your dog it is highly recommended that you hire an elite personal trainer to ensure you train safely and efficiently.

Walking Is Ideal For Both of You

Brisk walking is the ideal exercise for you and your furry friend. As a rule of thumb, brisk walking should get your pulse over 100 beats per minute.  Benefits for both of you include improved cardiovascular endurance, lower blood pressure, increased energy and bone density and decreased risk of depression. Regular walks for your dog can reduce common behaviour problems – a tired dog is a happy and well-behaved dog. There’s no set rule for how far or how long a dog should walk, but take cues from your little BFF.  And take note that if you push your dog too hard, too soon, and like humans, they can end up with overtraining injuries or severe joint problems. Just work slowly toward a goal and gradually increase your speed and how far you walk.

Stand-up Paddleboarding (SUP)

Here on the West Coast, we are blessed with natural beauty all around us. One of the most beautiful aspects of our environment is our proximity to both the ocean and stunning lakes. Stand-up paddleboarding is made for such a serene backdrop. Paddleboards have more than enough room for our little co-pilots just remember to put a proper life jacket on both of you for safe water play. Make sure you pick a day to go out that has a glass-like serenity so both of you can find your balance – with the extra passenger your abs and arms will get a fantastic workout. Initially, it is a good idea to start out either sitting or kneeling on the SUP to lower the centre of gravity thus making it harder to fall and make your dog feel safer. Stay in close to shore as it’s a pretty good bet that you will both end up in the water more than once.

Cycling

Cycling is great for the owner that can’t keep up with their high-spirited dog! There are several highly energetic breeds that need more than a casual stroll around the neighbourhood. Training your dog to keep up with you as you pedal is a win-win situation for both of you! They finally get to tear it up and run full out and you get an amazing workout that can burn up to 500 or more calories an hour.  A tired dog is a good dog; sufficient exercise such as cycling with your dog can produce a profound change in our dog’s behaviour. The biggest problem with dogs is that they’re not getting enough exercise. Similar to humans aerobic exercise stimulates the brain to make serotonin, this hormone helps dogs, especially those who are anxious or aggressive, to relax.  Please note, that if you are running your dog on pavement, keep a moderate pace and for no more than thirty minutes of running to protect their paws and joints from injury.  Also, do not have them run on pavement every day as this can lead to chronic pain for your dog.  If you notice that your dog, who was once excited about running alongside of you, no longer wants to run, this may indicate that he/she is in pain and needs to take a break from running and walk instead.

Soccer

Most dogs have a fascination with balls and soccer is a fabulous game to play with your buddy! Herding dogs especially love to play soccer because it puts their natural abilities to work. Be sure to go to a pet store and get a soccer ball made specifically for dogs, your friends little razor-like teeth can make quick work of a normal soccer ball. Dogs can be taught to dribble the ball using their nose or to bat it with their paws. Chasing the ball can elevate both of your heart rates and provide your dog with mental stimulation. Dogs are just like kids, come up with a game and they will play with you!

Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing

Living in “Beautiful British Columbia” we are lucky not only to be by the ocean but also in close proximity to the majestic mountains. One look at a happy dog romping in fresh powder and you’ll know why you don’t need to leave your best friend out of winter sports.  Similar to walking or hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing provides you with an excellent way to get a full-body low-impact workout. One thing to keep in mind is snow can be hard on our little friend’s feet and frostbite is possible so make sure you pick up some booties to protect their pads.

Running

Dogs are creatures of habit once you set up a routine they won’t let you skip out no matter what the weather or what your motivation levels are for the day.  It’s important to remember that not all dogs are built for speed or distance! Should your desire a running partner in your furry buddy, it will be important to research what type of dog would most suit this type of activity.  It is also very important to remember that running can be hard on a dog’s joints so you must wait until they are full grown until you start a running program with you pal. Once you have spoken to your vet about having them run with you, gradually build up the amount of time they are running with you. Remember, you didn’t start with a 10 km run and they can’t either. Start with a 5 to 10-minute warm-up then start with a short jog adding on a minute or two every three days as your friend can tolerate and end with a 5 to 10-minute cool-down. Remember that dogs can’t sweat, so avoid the hot times of the day and stop if your dog is lagging behind you.  Just note that the pavement can get really hot during the afternoon and hurt your dog’s paws.  If you don’t know how to exercise with your dog it is highly recommended that you hire an elite personal trainer to ensure you train safely and efficiently.

When you exercise with your dog, 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 he is 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.

The health benefits for the human is undeniable the American Heart Association reviewed previous research on how pets affect human health and found that owning a pet was associated with fewer heart disease risk factors and increased survival among patients! By saving a dog, they, in turn, will save you. Using your little furry best friend is a great way to motivate you to get outside and get moving! It’s a win-win for both you and your pup, who will come home exhausted and ready to cuddle up for a post-workout nap.

Adopting from a Shelter is an Act of Rescue and Love

Here at Infofit we want you to remember the most important thing! Adopt don’t shop! There are way too many animals and never enough homes. Shelters have been facing overpopulation problems for several decades. Shelters are full of healthy, sweet and intelligent animals who were surrendered not because of behaviour, but generally due to the issues of their previous owners such as their previous owner died or the family had a baby and didn’t want the dog around for safety reasons. Shelters and rescue groups have adoptable pets of all ages, breeds, mixes and sizes. Help stop the number of abandoned animals. Adopting from a shelter is an act of rescue and love. It is a good deed for you, helps the shelter, but is essential for the survival of the animal who needs you. Added to the pleasure of having a new companion, you’ll be happy to be the one who was able to offer him a second chance.  Having a furry friend will be an amazing blessing in your life!

Remember Adopt Don’t Shop and Happy Training

Cathie Glennon

BCRPA SFL , Rehabilitation Specialist, Pharm.Tech (Level 3)

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