Have you ever noticed how dogs and dog owners begin to resemble each other over time? Co-habitation often leads to dogs and their owners adopting similar diets and exercise patterns. Generally speaking, if a dog owner overeats and rarely gets out for exercise, the dog is likely to do the same. Likewise, an overweight dog owner is twice as likely to have an overweight dog than a fit dog owner. If you are a dog owner who is looking to drop a few pounds, you may want to consider including your dog in your fitness regime and changing his dog diet.
Not only will this be good for your physical and mental health, it will be good for your wallet as well. Eating less means less money spent on food for both you and your dog. And don’t forget, exercising with your dog is free. All you need is a place to walk, run and play, and you are all set. No expensive gym membership required.
A 2009 study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) stated that over 55% of dogs in the United States were overweight, and that more than 35% of pet owners incorrectly identified their overweight dog as being a normal weight. This study shows that weight gain is on the rise not just in the human population, but also in the animal world. This is a serious issue, as excess weight can cause a myriad of problems in pets including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and kidney disease.
A 2009 study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) stated that over 55% of dogs in the United States were overweight, and that more than 35% of pet owners incorrectly identified their overweight dog as being a normal weight.
To check whether your dog is overweight, there is a simple test you can do. Simply take your fingers and place them on the dog’s backbone. Then run the fingers along the ribcage in a downward motion. If you can clearly feel the ribs, then the dog is probably within a healthy weight range. If you cannot feel the ribs easily, or if there is a layer of fat between the ribs and the backbone, your dog may be overweight or obese.
Certain breeds of dog are also prone to obesity and weight gain. The APOP study showed that nearly 46% of Labrador and Golden Retrievers were overweight or obese. Other breeds that are susceptible to pudginess are Cocker Spaniels, Basset Hounds and Beagles. The best way to determine whether your pet is in need of a serious dog diet and weight loss is to consult a veterinarian and have your pet weighed in.
For people and pets that need to shed a few pounds, there is good news. The Wellness Institute in the Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago and Hill’s Pet Nutrition undertook a 12-month study where they looked at the effects of exercise and dog diets on overweight pets and pet owners. The study was called People and Pets Exercising Together. In this study, two groups of overweight people were given a strict diet and exercise regime. One group was made up of dog owners and the other group was made up of people without dogs. Results showed that the group who exercised with their dogs lost more weight and were happier overall than the other group.
Working out with your dog can be a tremendously motivating and rewarding experience. Simply taking the dog for regular walks can be a great form of exercise that may not even feel like a workout. In addition, dogs love routine and so once an exercise plan is implemented, the dog may just push you to go out and get some exercise. Moreover, a dog can be an extremely dependable and enthusiastic workout buddy. Provided you and your pet are eating sensibly and exercising regularly, you may just be surprised at how many pounds you can both drop.
The following are some helpful tips for losing weight with your dog:
Start Off Slow: Just like people, dogs need to slowly ease into a workout program. Take it slow to begin with and start with short walks in order to gradually build muscle and cardiovascular strength. Once you and your dog are more comfortable taking longer walks, you can up the distance or the speed.
Try to Walk at the Same Time Everyday: Dogs love routines, and once you establish a pattern your dog will most likely be barking at the door when it is time for your usual walk. This can be a great motivator for you as well. A good plan is to walk for 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at night. On the weekends you may want to mix it up with some other activities like Frisbee in the park or a long hike.
Try to Walk or Run on Grass if Possible: Your dog’s paws are sensitive, and so repeated walks on asphalt or gravel could chafe or cut the pads on your dog’s feet. City dogs do get used to the asphalt though, so that should not be a deterrent. Just try to give the dog some grass time as well.
Keep Your Dog on a Leash: No matter how well trained your dog is, there is always the possibility of an accident happening. This is particularly true for those who live in cities as one small misstep into traffic could spell disaster. As the saying goes, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Bring Plenty of Water With You: Any exercise that gets your heart pumping will also make you thirsty, and the same goes for dogs. Bring enough water so that both you and your dog can stay hydrated while working out.
Don’t Overdo It: Even though your dog may be raring to go, it is important to maintain a steady pace and to watch for signs of fatigue. If you or your dog starts to lose steam, slow down and take it easy. You do not want to risk tearing a ligament or burning out.
Lay Off the Treats: Humans are not the only ones who have to watch what they eat. Many pet owners pile on the dog treats to reward a dog’s good behavior or to placate a whining animal. This only reinforces bad eating habits. Try rewarding your dog with kind words and love instead of sugar and fat heavy treats. If you must give a treat, try to give your dog something healthy and light instead.
Eat Healthfully: Just as people need to eat a healthy, well balanced meals, dog do as well. Make sure to check the list of ingredients on the dog’s diet to make sure that they are high quality and not just filler with empty calories. If you need more information on dog food, a good place to check is our dog food ratings.
Including your dog in your fitness program can be an excellent way to improve your health and that of your dog. Studies show that people who exercise with their pets tend to lose more weight and have much greater satisfaction in their diet and workout plan than those that go it alone. Not only are dogs great motivators, but they are reliable and loyal workout buddies. By making a few small lifestyle changes and sticking to a manageable and achievable fitness plan, you and your dog should be losing weight and shedding the pounds in no time along with saving money.