Towards the end of winter or early spring I took Maui to the groomer hoping that a good bath, deshedding, and hair cut would make her look like she lost about ten pounds. It didn’t work. I was actually pretty surprised to see how much weight Maui had gained. This was her second winter with me and I was able to maintain her weight really well over the first winter so it was shocking to me that she gained so much this past winter.
I’m in a wheelchair and I’m not exceptionally more active in the summer than the winter, so the weight gain was even a little bit more baffling. In addition to winter just being a generally less active time for most people, the only other change I could think of was that I changed her main dry dog food.
Whatever the case, winter is over and so is the time for rationalizing and I guess excuses. It’s time to figure out how to exercise my dog to help her shed some pounds.
Overweight and Obese Dogs
The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention conducts a survey every year asking veterinarians and pet owners about pets. The 2017 survey revealed that 56% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. In case you are curious, the survey also revealed that 60% of cats in the U.S. are overweight or obese. That adds up to 106.5 million dogs and cats in the United States that are obese or overweight.
Maui and I are definitely not alone in her overweightedness (yes, I created that word), but not a very healthy crowd to hang with. Maybe Maui and I should start an exercise club!
Dangers of Being Overweight or Obese
The dangers of being overweight or obese are similar for pets as they are for humans. Carrying around too many pounds can lead to diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, or possibly even cancer. All of these conditions can dramatically decrease your dog’s quality of life as well as their life expectancy.
How to Exercise My Dog
Here are some great exercises that you and your dog can do together. The extra activity will help them burn some calories and overtime lose weight and who knows, maybe the activity will help you lose a little weight as well.
Go for a Walk or Hike
I’m not sure what it is like around your home, but here in Minnesota we have a ton of walking paths and hiking trails of various difficulty levels. Getting out for a walk around your neighborhood or going for a more strenuous hike through the woods, a hilly area, or up a mountain is sure to be awesome fun for your dog and a great way to burn calories. Even if you’re pressed for time a 15 minute walk is better than no walk at all!
Go to the Lake for a Swim!
Bring a ball or your dog’s favorite floating toy and hit the lake! A lot of dogs love the water and love to swim. Swimming is a low intensity exercise so it is more gentle on the joints. This makes swimming an excellent choice for the older dogs or for a dog that is obese and might put too much strain on their joints by running. It’s a great way for them to cool off at the same time!
Run and Play Around the House
If the weather is bad or you just happen to catch the right moment when you’re indoors, run around the house! Sometimes Maui gets the zoomies and just decides to grab a toy and run! This is a great time to take advantage of your dog’s excitement and energy and turn it into an opportunity to burn some calories! We have a somewhat long hallway in our house so Maui will run from the living room to our front sunroom and back to the living room, again, and again. Quite often when she does this I encourage the running to help her get a little bit of exercise.
Here is Maui and her ‘sister’ playing with some toys in the hallway.
If your house doesn’t have a long hallway you can always do the stairs. Go easy at first if your dog is overweight or obese, but just go up and down the stairs a few times. You could make a game of it by tossing a ball down the stairs and have your dog go get it and bring it back to you.
Set-up an Agility Course
Watching dogs run through agility courses is so fun to watch on TV, but have you ever thought of creating one yourself for your own dog? This could be a great way to get the whole family involved and all have fun together creating the course and teaching your dog how to run it (might even be fun to watch your kids run it!)
You can purchase agility equipment online but you can also make your own. Pound long stakes into the ground for your dog to weave through, grab your kid’s tunnels for him to crawl through, or make ramps or a teeter totter with wood from your workshop.
If you look around on YouTube you can find a lot of folks showing you how to make your own dog agility equipment at a much lower cost than buying it.
Classic Fetch or Frisbee
You can always hit the classic games that dogs love like fetch and Frisbee! If you don’t have a good throwing arm you can use something like a Chuckit! ball launcher to send a tennis ball flying! You could even play fetch with their favorite toy or a stick you find at the park.
You know how kids love bubbles? Dogs love bubbles too (well, who doesn’t). A fun game that doesn’t take a lot of room, you can do it right there in your front or back yard, is to blow bubbles and let your dog catch them! Not only is jumping and running to get the bubbles good exercise for your dog it’s great fun to watch them do it!
Dogs who have never caught bubbles before might be a little confused at first so just blow a couple and encourage your dog to chase them. Catch a couple yourself to show them that the bubbles are nothing to be afraid of.
The regular bubbles that you can buy in the kids department at the store are usually made of some sort of soap. Ingesting small amounts of this is not harmful, but too much will definitely give them a bellyache. Also be sure to wipe off their face when you’re done as the residue could get in their eyes and be irritating.
If you’re worried about that potential tummy ache and irritation from regular bubbles you can buy bubbles specially made for dogs! I just looked them up on Amazon and they are even scented – I found some bacon scented dog bubbles and some peanut butter scented dog bubbles.
Introduce Slowly and Take it Easy
For us humans, when we start new exercise program it’s always good to check with our doctor first. The same goes for your dog especially if they are obese, overweight, have arthritis, or have a special medical condition. Touching base with your dogs veterinarian is a good idea.
The shorter faced or nosed dogs like Pugs and Bulldogs, may have more trouble breathing, so definitely monitor their activity and adjust so that it is safe for them.
Starting out on an exercise program can be physically and mentally difficult. Think about making a schedule so you will have the time built into your day. This way it will be a little harder to “forget”.
Watch the weather and don’t go out if it is excessively hot and/or humid. Dogs can get overheated too! Don’t forget to bring water for the both of you!
Ease into it, stay dedicated, and have fun!
What’s your favorite way to exercise and play with your dog? Let us know in the comments below!