EVERYONE AGREES that having a buddy makes a fitness plan easier to stick to. I’d like to propose that making your dog your fitness partner is a “win-win” for both of you.
If you’ve ever watched an episode of The Dog Whisperer, you already know that within 5 minutes Caesar Milan will ask the desperate pet parents how much exercise the troubled canine gets. There’s a reason for that – exercise is critical for our pet’s physical and emotional well being– just as it’s critical for our own.
Sticking to a walking routine would be fairly easy if a human friend would show up at your door and nag you to exercise with them …. But what about the four legged friends who are already living with you?
When we take our dogs out for exercise, we’re both reaping big rewards.
Canine couch potatoes have trouble relaxing at home. They tend to be hyper-vigilant– barking at any and every little noise. They chase the cat, dig holes in your garden, chew up your shoes, and get themselves into the “dog house” more often.
Dogs who get a chance to walk, run, and swim aren’t just better behaved and more relaxed, they’re also healthier. Regular exercise reaps the same rewards for them as it does for us — healthier heart and lungs, stronger muscles and joints, and most importantly, it tends to keep them (and us) leaner.
Those of us who live in Franklin are very lucky to have the Greenway— miles of flat, maintained trails – perfect for a leash walk or jog – without lots of off-leash dogs to interfere with your exercise.
In contrast, when I leave our home and walk the neighborhood with our dogs, in 40 minutes I’m sure to be accosted by at least SIX free roaming, territorial, neighborhood dogs. They’re a real hazard to anyone trying to get a little exercise whether you’re on foot, or a bike!
Here’s this month’s tips for a safe AND peaceful walk:
Safety First: I never leave my house without a can of the Spray Shield that we sell at Noah’s Ark. This harmless spray stops charging pit bulls in their tracks with a powerful citronella smell that dogs hate. I recommend everyone carry a can of this if you’re walking in our area with your dog.
Easy does it: Avoid the “weekend warrior” syndrome. Start out with slower, shorter walks on flat terrain, and gradually progress to more strenuous hikes. Older dogs (and their people) start slower than young pups! But even young pups (under six months of age) should not be jogging or running long distances with their humans. In fact, until your puppy is nearly two years old there are some restrictions on how much strenuous exercise is advisable. If you’re a serious athlete, seek the advice of our veterinarians before you make your dog your training partner.
Leash manners: Most of us will need to keep dogs leashed while walking. It is possible to teach good leash manners. Click here for extensive, detailed instructions on teaching polite leash manners. If you’re anxious for a quicker fix, stop by Noah’s Ark and ask for a complimentary fitting of a Gentle Leader, or Easy Walk harness.
Follow the Leader: Make sure you’re walking your dog, and your dog’s not walking you. Walks are a great time to build your relationship with your dog, but don’t let your dog drag you all over the place – it’s not enjoyable for you, and it’s potentially dangerous. Let us help you if you have trouble staying in control while you walk.
Multiple Mania: Believe it or not, the most common objection I hear in the office to dog walking is… “I can’t keep control of three dogs at once”. At the risk of stating the obvious, I always give permission to walk dogs individually, even if it’s on separate days. Just like you probably did with your human children, it’s great to spend a little one on one time with each dog.
Old dogs can learn new tricks: Even very senior pets can benefit from a modest increase in activity. A gentle exercise program can even help arthritic dogs maintain their mobility. If you notice your dog excessively panting, toe scuffing, or reluctant to walk – let our veterinarians evaluate. Those are signs of discomfort. We can help your dog have a great quality of life even into their senior years.