The holiday are over and if you are like most people, you overate. Who could resist all those holiday parties, the tasty treats and fancy drinks? And if you have a dog, you probably overfed them too with snacks from the table and if you didn’t, your guests did.
We all did it and we all regret the extra pounds. But, the New Year is for New Year’s resolutions, so let’s make one right now to get out and exercise and to take our dog with us.
Many people start their new year with a resolution like this, but by February, they are back on the sofa. So, start small, aim for a 15 minute walk every day with your dog. Depending on your breed of dog, a 15 minute walk barely skims the surface of their energy level. Even small dogs benefit from that 15 minutes but can do lots more, so build up over time to 30 or even 60+ minutes a day. You will both feel better as a result.
If your dog is older or has orthopedic issues, break up the walk into two or even three walks. You will find that the resulting weight loss reduces stress on their limbs and their orthopedic issues improve.
If you like to run or bike, even better. Most dogs would love to be your running or biking companion. Keep in mind that both activities require some training of the dog to ensure they stay on one side of you, don’t bolt after other runners or bikers and generally keep pace with you, i.e. no smelling the roses or stopping at fire hydrants while you’re biking.
There’s been a lot of research and reports this decade about the importance of exercise for human health and longevity. Less has been written about the benefits of exercise for your dog, but it is just as important for them as it is for you.
One study, conducted a few years ago by Purina found that similar to humans, dogs benefit greatly from a healthy weight and exercise. Specifically, the study noted that thin dogs outlive their overweight littermates by 10-15%. That’s a pretty significant increase, which could mean 1-2 or more years of life for the dog. To put it into context, a similar percentage gain in a human lifespan would mean around 10 extra years of living!
Your dog also benefits from the mental stimulation required of regular exercise. It excites their brain to be out in the world, experiencing new things and working their body. This stimulation increases their brain function and as with humans, can help reduce stress and boredom, helps them to retain memories longer (good for training) and strengthens your bond with your pet.
In addition, you might not realize it, but a dog would also benefit from a strength training program. You want them to stay strong and vibrant into their senior years, and that walk around the block once a week and a quick game of fetch in the yard, just doesn’t cut it. Strength training helps keep their muscles strong and supportive of their internal organs and bones and reduces the risk of injury and illness.
We will write more about types of strength training activities you can undertake with your dog, but for now, you can start with simple hill training or maybe a weighted vest.
Let your dog inspire you to make this resolution and stick to it, you will both benefit. As a matter of fact, it’s good for the whole family, so get everyone off the sofa and out the door.
“If it wasn't for dogs, some people would never go for a walk.”