Many of us make a plan at the beginning of each year in the form of New Year’s Resolutions. Often they are focused on transformations – losing weight, learning something new, becoming more active, etc. Have you made a resolution on behalf of your dog? Let’s see if we can guess…
Many dogs are overweight. This can be due to lack of exercise, too much food, or both. In this post, we are going to focus on the exercise component to a healthy body. A future post will be dedicated to nutrition. In addition to feeding the right amount of food, you should be feeding your dog the right kinds of food.
Knowing the proper weight for your dog is the first step. Many people are in denial about the size of their dog. People get used to watching the puppy continue to grow, and don’t realize that the puppy has reached adult size and is now just getting wider. One clue is that your dog’s head seems too small for the body. For some breeds, we have become accustomed to seeing them overweight and can’t remember what they are really supposed to look like. The view in our nation has been that labs have more of a coffee table shape. Pugs have that adorable, rolly poly body, but it can go to the extreme. They should not be wider than they are tall. If you aren’t sure, please ask your vet for are recommendation for your dog’s ideal weight. You should be able to easily feel your dog’s ribs, but not easily see them. You should see a tucked in waist from the profile and looking down from above.
If you have a mixed breed dog, you may not know what the ideal body shape should be. If you can’t see a waist or easily feel the ribs, plan on a 10% reduction in weight. You can always reevaluate once you reach that first goal. Now that you have a weight in mind from your vet, start on an exercise plan for your dog. (Bonus – this plan can help you get more exercise, too.) Ideally your dog is going for at least two 15 minute walks per day. This should be a walk around the neighborhood, through the woods, in a park, or any other creative place that isn’t you just circling your house. Some outdoor malls are dog friendly, and great well-lit locations to walk. Locally, The Promenade is dog a dog friendly mall.
Create a realistic plan. If you never do more with your dog than one loop around the block, don’t start out with a five mile walk. Perhaps you can start with two loops around the block twice a day. Once you know you and your dog can handle that amount of exercise, extend the length of the walk. You can also add bursts of running. If the reason you are not walking your dog enough is because of poor leash manners, please seek the assistance of a positive trainer. You may also consider purchasing a Freedom Harness, or similar product. Never rely on equipment that will hurt your dog, like prong and shock collars. The training staff at the lodge is always available to help you.
Joining up with others to walk can help motivate you. The Bandana Bunch is a social group for dogs that meets in the Lehigh Valley area for hikes and adventures. For more information, check out the Bunch schedule here.
Participating in dog sports is another great way to get exercise. There are sports for dogs who like to run, chase, swim, jump, and dance. There are so many fun sports for dogs, so it may be hard to pick just one. At Cold Nose Lodge, we offer “Intro to Dog Sports” class to do a brief trial with three different sports. Class Schedule