Tips to Help Your Dog Get Fit and Stay Healthy
Children, adults and seniors aren’t the only ones fighting America’s obesity crisis. According to a survey, a little over half the dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. Like humans, this can lead to aggravated joint disease, diabetes and heart disease — not to mention, an unhappy and lethargic pooch. If you’re a pet owner, only you can help your dog stay fit and healthy for the long-term. Here’s how you can do just that.
Exercise Is Not One-Dog-Fits-All
Exercise 101 equates to taking your dog for regular walks. To enhance this activity, invest in a proper leash that’s comfortable for your pooch and easy for you to use. Should you have a schedule change that doesn’t allow for you to commit to daily strolls, hire a professional dog walker to help you out. A fenced in yard can make it easy for your dog to expel extra energy while giving you peace of mind that it won’t run away. When it comes to weight loss and maintenance, you’ve got to structure additional activity based on your dog’s age and breed.
- Age: Puppies generally only need 15-20 minutes a day until fully grown, while adult dogs need anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours depending on breed and size. Senior dogs need to slow their pace and shorten their time exercising, so if weight is an issue, their diet should be tweaked to reflect the lack of activity. You never want to push your dog to move if you detect it’s in pain through an age-related issue like arthritis. While movement can actually help with such a condition (alleviate stiff joints), excessive or aggressive exercise can only worsen their condition while causing distress and anxiety.
- Breed: While you should conduct your own research to determine your dog’s specific needs based on its breed, there are some general rules of thumb. For example, smaller breeds including poodles, Yorkshire terriers, Chihuahuas tend to be less active despite their size. On the flip side, the same goes for large breeds of dogs like Great Danes, Newfoundlands, and mastiffs; and flat-nosed breeds including pugs, shih tzus and bulldogs because they typically have breathing issues. If you get an active breed of dog such as a Golden Retriever, German Shepherd, terrier, or scent hound, make sure you’re prepared to dedicate 60-90 minutes of daily exercise.
Consider Agility Training
While breeds including Border Collies and Aussies thrive in agility training, all dogs can benefit from this mental and physical workout in an obstacle course-like setting. Along with boosting your dog’s level of fitness, self-confidence and obedience, you’ll also stay fit while bonding with your pooch. Just make sure your dog’s physical and mental health are in check before signing up for a course.
Be Mindful Of Your Dog’s Diet
The process for overseeing your dog’s diet is a lot similar to how you’d handle your own if you were trying to shed some weight. You’re going to want to calculate calories, watch portion sizes, administer treats sparingly (consider healthy replacements like raw vegetables — yes, really!), cut the carbs and use the right type of supplements based on your dog’s needs and goals. You’re going to need to know your dog’s starting weight in order to accurately monitor their progress.
Don’t assume you know your dog’s dietary and physical needs. Make sure you speak with your vet before putting your pooch on a diet and exercise routine. Continue the conversation when you notice weight loss and/or any other potential changes in appetite or mood.
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