In the depths of winter, we spend a lot more time indoors. Unfortunately, less time outside usually means less activity, so it’s easy to put on the pounds — for us and our dogs.
Obesity isn’t just a human phenomenon; it’s also becoming prevalent in our canine companions. A survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) showed that nearly 53 percent of dogs in the United States were overweight or obese in 2014.
Dogs are susceptible to some of the same health-related problems as humans are, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, cancers and decreased life expectancy. So, what can we do to help?
Combined with the right diet, exercise is always a great key to fitness. These 5 handy workouts are sure to keep your dog happy and healthy in mind and body. (Check with your veterinarian before changing your dog’s exercise habits and diet.)
1. Walking or Jogging
If you live in a place where you can spend time outside year round…well, I’m jealous. Not just because of the weather but also because this means you can take your dog outside for walks or jogs regularly.
If you live in a snowy place but can still manage walks with your dog semi-regularly, take advantage of it!
Start out slowly and pace yourself while gradually increasing the duration of the time spent outside. Your dog may need to build up his endurance and stamina, especially in inclement temperatures.
If you notice your dog panting heavily, trying to stop or swaying while he runs, slow down — he may be pushing beyond his limits.
If you have access to stairs, you’ve got a built-in fitness stepper that you can use anytime you’d like. Spend time with your dog walking or jogging up and down the stairs and get those heart rates up.
Stairs can be an effective weight-loss tool for dogs, no matter what his fitness level is.
Even just plain walking forces your dog’s body to use more muscle to balance and push against gravity. Just be careful — over-exuberant dogs can try to go too fast and end up tumbling down the stairs. It’s a good idea to accompany him while you’re stepping.
3. Go Fetch
You can play fetch indoors or out, provided that the weather is clear.
Most dogs love the idea of fetching (even if they haven’t exactly mastered the art of returning), and some even more so in snowy conditions. If you have a fenced-in yard, a little snow on the ground isn’t going to get in the way of a good round of fetch.
Be mindful of the temperature, though. If it’s really cold out, limit your time outside so that neither one of you gets hypothermia or frostbite.
4. Dog Treadmills
Believe it or not, treadmills for dogs are a thing. These treadmills sometimes use side guards to prevent falls and are designed for a dog’s gait rather than that of a human. This is a terrific option for dogs who spend lots of snowbound time indoors.
A little trickier than other dog exercise methods, dog treadmill workouts require extra care in making sure your dog doesn’t hurt himself.
Purina offers an excellent step-by-step treadmill training process on its website that gives effective advice on how to safely implement this device into your dog’s exercise routine.
Check out these happy dogs on their treadmill at home:
After the snow thaws and winter gives way to lovely spring and then summer, go for a refreshing swim with your dog.
Swimming is a fantastic aerobic exercise that’s easy on joints and muscles — a dream for those worried about joint overextension during exercise.
Local ponds and beaches may allow unleashed dogs to swim during certain hours of the day. Check with local animal control officers to find out if this is an option for you.
So get out there and work those legs — all 4 of them (or 6, if you’re joining in on the fun). Your dog’s health will benefit. He may reduce his risk for high blood pressure, stroke, cancer and even live longer. As far as I can see, there’s just no downside to having our best friends with us for as long as possible.