Obesity is on the rise in the US, both for humans and for their canine friends. In the US, an estimated 56% of dogs are overweight – that amounts to about 50 million dogs! Excess weight in dogs can create health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, pancreatitis and cancer. A sedentary lifestyle, which is a large contributing factor to obesity, can also cause behavior problems in dogs, due to boredom or excess energy that has not been burned off in a positive way. Sadly, these behavior problems can sometimes land dogs in overcrowded shelters. What can we do?
In addition to keeping a close eye on a dog’s diet, avoiding unhealthy foods and making sure not to overfeed, one great way to address a dog’s weight problem is to walk with them every day. A daily 30 minute walk will help both you and your dog meet national standards for heart health, and will get you both on the road to a healthier weight. The exercise also has the added benefit of tiring your dog out – remember, a tired dog is a good dog.
You may be thinking to yourself that you have a large yard, and a pet door for your dogs – isn’t this enough? While it is true that it is very beneficial for a dog to have free access to their yard, and it helps provide an excellent foundation for a healthy dog, there is more to the picture. When a dog is outside in their own yard, there is a lot of (valuable) time spent exploring his territory, sniffing around, lying in the sun – all very important activities for your dog. But this outside time doesn’t quite live up to the sustained exercise a dog needs – similar to how the time we spend outdoors in our garden, while great for us, doesn’t quite provide all of the cardiovascular exercise our own bodies need. Also, when you take your dog out into the world for a walk, there are new sights, sounds and smells that stimulate his brain in a different way than his usual scene, which gives him a mental health boost in addition to a heart health one.
You can even get your whole family involved. If you bring your kids along on your walks, you will be not only modeling an active lifestyle for them, but you will also be teaching them how to take excellent care of their own dogs when they get older.
These are all great points, but what if you don’t have a dog to walk? There is a great solution to that problem waiting for you at your local dog shelter. Remember how we mentioned above that some dogs end up in shelters due to behavior problems that have their root in a sedentary lifestyle and obesity? You can find yourself the perfect walking buddy in a dog who needs you to help him get to be his healthiest and happiest self. It’s a win-win!
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