Did you know that 56% of all dogs were considered to be obese? According to the Association for Pet Obesity, 50 million dogs in the United States are significantly overweight, leading to an increased risk of arthritis, heart disease, and even cancer.
Fortunately, dogs can lose weight by decreasing the calories they consume and exercise, just like we do as humans. It is extremely important to always check with your vet on how to reduce calories without starving your dog or before starting any new exercise program.
In the meantime, here are some fun cardio exercises for you and your dog to do together.
Dog Walking & Hiking
Having a fenced yard is a must-have for many dog owners. In fact, most shelters and rescues look for owners to have fenced yards before approving potential adopters. However, it is important to remember that even though the fenced yard is a safe place to play off-leash and a handy spot for 3 a.m. potty breaks, it is not a replacement for leashed walks.
Leashed walks and hikes have dual benefits. Walks provide important mental exercise to dogs because of the mental stimulation that they get from smelling new scents along each new path. Walking your dog is also the easiest form of exercise to do together because the only equipment you need is a leash and collar or harness. But it is also a great and fun way to burn calories together, so both you and your dog experience the health benefits.
If your dog’s walking manners are rusty, many dog training facilities offer courses for dog owners specially created to help their dogs improve their loose-leash walking skills.
You can also find positive training methods for teaching loose-leash walking on YouTube and on the American Kennel Club website: https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/whos-walking-who-tips-to-teach-loose-leash-walking.
Varying your route is fun for both you and your dog. After all, who wants to walk the same route every single day? We suggest researching to find out which trails are available at your local municipal parks or nearby state and local parks. Remember to start with easy terrain, especially if your dog is obese or has joint pain or problems.
You can find new destinations online here https://www.traillink.com/activity/dog-walking-trails/ and here https://www.bringfido.com/attraction/trails.
Swimming is the best partner exercise to perform with your dog, and it is becoming easier to find a swimming spot with more and more indoor dog pools opening around the country. Not only are indoor dog pools open year-round, allowing your pet to swim even during cold winter months, but they also offer a clean environment and special water treatment methods that are safe for a dog’s skin and coat. Many also offer water therapy treatments for dogs with joint pain or mobility problems.
Of course, dogs have been swimming outside in lakes and streams for hundreds of years. However, blooms of blue-green algae can be deadly to dogs and it is not always easy for an average dog owner to know if algae are present or if it is the type that can hurt their dog. Saltwater can also be dangerous when ingested by dogs, so make sure if you take your dog to an outdoor swimming spot, you should be aware of the water conditions and prevent your dog from drinking the water as he or she swims.
Dog Parks & Doggie Daycare
Dog parks and doggie daycares both offer opportunities for your dog to meet and play with other dogs. Just like with humans, though, some dogs do not want to play with other dogs, so there are several steps to take before choosing to take your dog to an off-leash park or a doggie daycare facility.
- Schedule a vet visit to ensure that your dog is up to date on all appropriate vaccinations and that their joints are healthy enough for running, jumping, and rough-housing with other dogs.
- Meet with a professional trainer to learn about your dog’s body language, how to spot warning signs of fighting or aggression from your own dog or other dogs, when to step in and take your dog off a play session, and how to break up a fight should one happen.
- Thoroughly research all daycare facilities to ensure that they practice collar safety, are sufficiently staffed, and are owned and monitored by knowledgeable, qualified staff.
Dog frisbee & fetch
Some breeds are more obsessed with balls and flying discs than others, but all dogs can enjoy a classic game of fetch. It is important to watch your dog and stop the game when they become visibly tired or overheated. Some dogs will hint that they are finished with the game when they no longer bring the ball or disc to you, but others are so obsessed with the game of fetch (like many Sporting and Herding breeds) that they would play all day if you let them.
Although a game of fetch seems like something a dog knows instinctively how to play, many need to be taught the basics of bringing the toy back to their human. You can find training tips on teaching your dog to play fetch at the American Kennel Club’s link: https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/how-to-teach-a-dog-to-fetch-or-retrieve.
Whether your dog is a pure-bred dog or a mix, there are dog sports for every shape and size. These sports allow dogs and their owners to do the activities for which the dogs were originally bred but in a fun and competitive environment. And if your dog is a mix of many breeds, you can try a variety of sports to see where he or she has the most fun.
Agility is perhaps the most well-known sport for dogs. Agility dogs navigate obstacles and compete to get the fastest time on an assigned course. Nose work, also called scent work, is an event in which dogs use their natural sniffing abilities to locate specific scents and mimic the work done by professional detection dogs. Nose work is gaining steadily in popularity, and dog training facilities often offer beginner courses to get you started. Lure coursing is perfect for dogs with a high prey drive who loves to chase. Hunt tests are for retrievers or other hunting breeds who are skilled at finding and retrieving waterfowl and upland game. Dog diving can be done by any dog who loves to leap into the water from a dock.
Dogs and their owners can participate in events just for fun or to earn titles and awards. The only dog sport limited to purebred, unaltered dogs in Conformation, which judges breeding stock compared to the breed standard. Otherwise, any dog can participate regardless of whether they are AKC registered and if they have been spayed or neutered.
Check out the American Kennel Club guide to getting started in dog sports at this link: https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/sports/get-started-in-dog-sports-and-events.
Find the right sport for your dog at this link: https://www.apps.akc.org/apps/event_calendar.