Exercising and losing weight are always among the most popular New Year’s resolutions made. And yet 80% of resolutions fail by the second week of February according to US News & World Report. One of the best ways to stay committed to exercising is to have a workout buddy, and who better than your dog?
Exercising with your dog can help keep you on track. Dogs love routine. Once you set an exercise routine, your dog will likely take over the job of reminding you it’s time to exercise! Exercising is good for your dog, too. As we mentioned in a recent post on pet health, 53% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. Exercising will help him or her maintain a healthy weight, while improving their cardio-vascular system and keeping their muscles and joints strong. Just as with people, regular exercise is also good for your dog’s overall mental health and can help reduce common behavior problems. Here are 10 safety tips to keep in mind when exercising with your dog:
- Before starting any new exercise program, a trip to the vet for your dog and a doctor’s checkup for you is recommended. Like humans, every dog’s physical abilities and limitations are different. It’s important to tailor your workout to both you and your dog’s needs.
- Make sure your dog has basic obedience training. Dogs that pull on their leash can cause damage to their throat and can also throw you off balance. Be sure your dog is trained to stay to the side of you. If your dog darts in front of you, you could trip and fall and both be hurt.
- Whether taking a brisk walk, jogging or hiking, always keep your dog on a leash. Even the most well-trained dogs can get distracted and end up in a potentially dangerous situation.
- Don’t tie the leash to your wrist. You or your dog could easily be injured by an unexpected move. Consider a hands-free leash for long distance walks, jogs or hikes. (Some also come with pouches where you can safely store, yet keep items easily accessible during your workout).
- Choose exercises that are appropriate for your dog. Not all dogs are built to jog, for example. And a chihuahua doesn’t need the same amount of exercise as a Labrador Retriever. Know your dog’s limits (and yours) and try not to overextend yourselves.
- If your dog isn’t used to regular exercise, is overweight or is older and perhaps has arthritis, start slowly, set modest goals and allow for warm up and cool down times. Over-exercising puppies can cause joint damage that can lead to arthritis later in life. A good rule of thumb is a ratio of five minutes exercise per month of age (up to twice a day) until the puppy is fully grown, i.e. 15 minutes (up to twice a day) when three months old, 20 minutes when four months old etc.
- Las Vegas is dry and it’s easy to become dehydrated in almost any season. If you are taking more than a 10 or 15-minute walk, bring water with you. Short-faced breeds, such as bulldogs, are especially vulnerable to dehydration because they don’t pant efficiently. Be aware of signs of dehydration including excessive panting, confusion, weakness, and collapse.
- As the temperatures rise and the heat gets excessive, restrict your outings to early mornings and late evenings. Dogs’ paws can easily get burned on asphalt, sidewalks, and concrete. If a surface is too hot for your hand (or foot) it’s too hot for your dog!
- Never exercise your dog right after he or she has eaten. This creates a risk factor for “bloat” or gastric dilation-volvuslus (GDV) which can be life-threatening. Large and giant breeds and older dogs are particularly susceptible to this condition, but all breeds have suffered from GDV.
- After exercising examine your dog’s paw pads for burrs, cuts, scrapes or other signs of injury. If you have been in a grassy or wooded area, also check their fur for burrs and ticks.