The obesity crisis in Dogs
There’s another obesity crisis in this country, and it’s happening to our dogs. More than half of all dogs are overweight or obese, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. While a pudgy pup may look cute, those few extra pounds wreak havoc on your pet’s well-being: Dogs that are overweight experience more health issues, live shorter lives and have more behavior problems due to lack of exercise.
Why are our dogs gaining weight? On top of too many treats and table scraps, most dogs aren’t getting the physical activity they need. Therefore, If you want your dog to stay healthy and happy, this is what you need to know about exercising your dog.
Getting Enough Exercise
One of the biggest mistakes that dog owners make is thinking that walks are adequate exercise. Most dogs need 30 to 90 minutes of exercise every day, and unless you’re going on a really long walk or walking several times a day, your walks probably aren’t enough.
To get your dog the exercise he needs, aim for a short walk in the morning, hire a dog walker to handle mid-day walks and use the evenings to go on a bike ride together, take a trip to the dog park, play fetch in the backyard, or wrestle around indoors.
Exercise is essential for your dog’s health, but it isn’t without its risks. While exercising your dog, watch for signs of fatigue or overheating. If your dog is panting excessively, drooling or vomiting, stop exercising and move to a cooler area. Symptoms that don’t subside indicate heat stroke and require emergency veterinary care.
Avoid collars during leashed activity.
Collars are great for keeping ID tags on your dog, but attaching a leash to a collar strains your dog’s head and neck and makes breathing more difficult. The American Kennel Club recommends using a harness instead when exercising dogs on leash.
When off leash, stick to safe environments like fenced backyards, dog parks and natural areas away from traffic. Be aware that many state and national parks only permit leashed pets. If you’re looking for a place to hike off leash, seek out backcountry areas, know the rules before you go and always keep your dog under voice control.
Choosing the Right Activities
Cater your dog’s exercise regimen to the activities he enjoys, not the ones that are your favorite. Breed plays a big role in the activities a dog enjoys: Retrievers tend to like fetch, while herding breeds excel at agility, and hounds love to chase.
If you’re not sure about your dog’s genetic background, experiment with different activities to find his favorite. Maybe he’ll find his passion in the water, discover a love of hikes in the backwoods, or be content with jogs around the neighborhood.
Your dog’s breed will determine not only which types of exercise he enjoys most but also what exercise is safest. Brachycephalic or flat-faced dog breeds struggle with vigorous exercise and are prone to heat stroke in hot weather.
High-impact exercise can increase the risk of Intervertebral Disk Disease and hip dysplasia in puppies and susceptible breeds, and collars may exacerbate tracheal collapse in small breed dogs. Other dogs may have exercise restrictions based on their health status. If your dog is overweight or has a health condition, talk with your veterinarian to determine what type of exercise is safest.
Life is busy. You have dinner to cook, phone calls to answer and a house to clean -- and all that after you already spent a full day at work. But if you’re neglecting your dog’s exercise needs, you’re doing both of you a disservice. Dogs that are well-exercised are healthier and more well-behaved, which means you can spend less time frustrated over your dog’s antics and more time enjoying your family pet.