Pet owners tend to feed and walk their dogs the same way they feed and exercise themselves, so it should come as no surprise that over half of the dogs in the United States are overweight. Because of their smaller size, an extra pound or two on a dog can cause serious health conditions. A 22-pound dog that should only weigh 17 pounds is equivalent to an average size man who’s now 50 pounds overweight.
Obesity puts both humans and dogs at an increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease, joint problems, skin conditions, cancer, and early death. Since the primary cause of obesity for both dogs and humans is overeating and too little exercise, the primary remedy is reducing calories and increasing physical activity.
Whether or not your dog is overweight, incorporating him or her into your workout can be an effective and enjoyable asset on your weight-loss journey. Here are a few ideas to let Fido help you help yourself to better health.
Walk or Run
The extent of your dog’s physical ability depends on its breed. If you’re looking to get a new pet, you may want to take into account your exercise of choice. Dogs of all sizes can handle a walk. First thing in the morning, lunchtime, and right after dinner are perfect times to walk your dog around the neighborhood, through the park, or down a greenway path.
Larger, stronger, more active breeds require more exercise and can keep up with you as you run, rollerblade, ride your bike, or skateboard. Long-distance runners or triathletes may enjoy a dog like a Doberman pinscher or greyhound, both of which are fast runners. Little dogs, on the other hand, don’t normally make good long-distance running partners.
Frisbee or Fetch
Dogs are playful and love attention. A large yard or local park provides the perfect place to get a workout playing Frisbee or fetch. Get your heart rate up and work your upper body throwing the Frisbee or ball. Work your lower body by squatting to pick it up and chasing after your dog. Keep in mind that an untrained or unruly dog may require obedience training before it can be taken around other people and pets.
De-stress and Relax
How much of your overeating habit is due to stress and anxiety? Since emotional eating is a major cause of obesity, it’s important to learn how to manage stress in healthy ways. Rather than turning to food for comfort, why not hang out with man’s best friend, a.k.a. your dog? Brush her hair, give him a massage, or sit together on the couch. You may even feel better talking to your dog and telling the little pooch your problems. Rest assured your pup won’t tell anyone what you said.
Accountability and Support
Studies show you’re more successful at weight loss with someone (or something) holding you accountable, to be there by your side during the good days and bad. After a long day at work or with the kids you may prefer to be alone with your thoughts, but knowing your dog needs exercise, too, can help motivate you to stay on track with your weight loss goals.
Once a daily walk or run becomes a habit, your dog knows it, expects it, and may even whine, bark, or nudge you until you get off the couch and out the door. While you may find this annoying at times, it may be just what your waistline needs.