Get Out & Active with Your Dog
By Honor Tarpenning, NextDayPets.com Staff
One of the best ways to get in shape and stay that way is to give your dog what he already craves, plenty of fun exercise. Dogs make amazing work out partners because they are consistent, reliable, and enthusiastic; they also never make excuses, never tease you, and don’t try to compete with you. Every dog should be walked at least twice a day until they’re tired. If you get into the habit of providing your dog with exercise, you’ll already be well on your way to a healthy lifestyle. You’ll also be doing your dog the favor of helping him stay fit. Obesity leads to heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis in dogs.
Exercise also has a positive effect on both your dog’s and your mental wellbeing. Having fun outdoors with your dog is a great way for you both to expend energy in a productive (rather than destructive) way. Have the kids home all day in the summer and not sure how to entertain them without just throwing them in front of the TV? Get them outside with you and your dog. You can all have tons of great, healthy fun by getting outside and getting some exercise.
If your dog is obese, or if your dogs have not been exercising regularly in the past, take them to see your vet to make sure they are physically capable of exercise, and to talk about the extent to which you should push them in the beginning.
Wherever you decide to take your pooch for outdoor fun, make sure he has an ID tag on his collar. You never know when he might find a way to escape even the most watchful eye. Also, always, always clean up after your pooch.
Head for the Hills
One fun way for the whole family, including your pooch, to get some exercise is with a hike. Hiking provides new and exciting sights and smells for your pup, and a beautiful atmosphere for your exercise. Before you go, make sure the trails you intend to visit are dog friendly. Lots of parks and trails forbid dogs.
Bring a couple bottles of water and a collapsible water bowl and take frequent breaks for your dog to drink. Be sure that your dog’s collar and leash are rugged enough to withstand hiking hazards like sharp rocks, thick brush, and thorns. (If you accidentally drop the leash or your dog pulls it out of your hands and tares off into the woods, you want to know that he’ll still have a viable leash when you catch him.) Leave the fancy leashes and show leashes at home and get a serious, durable leash, like the Ruff Wear Just-a-Cinch. If you intend to travel rough terrain, consider dog shoes like Bark’n Boots. Dog shoes will protect your pooch from hazards like sharp rocks, burrs, and broken glass. Don’t forget the first aid kit, and make sure your dog is protected with a flea and tick treatment, and heartworm preventative.
While you’re hiking, or taking part in any other forms of exercise with your dog, especially in hot weather, check your dog regularly for signs of dehydration. Symptoms include lethargy, sunken/bloodshot eyes, paleness, increased heart rate, and dry gums. Dehydrated dogs also lose skin elasticity. One way to check your dog for dehydration is to pinch a little chunk of his skin. If it stays pinched when you let go, instead of springing right back to where it was, your dog definitely needs a long break and water. Do not, however, let your dog quickly gulp down tons of water. This can lead to vomiting, general digestive upset, and a dangerous condition called bloat. If you stop him for a water break often enough, this shouldn’t be a problem. To learn more about woodsy fun with your pooch, read our article about Camping with Your Dog.
Beat the Heat, Hit Up the Beach
A trip to the beach for a nice frolic and a dip in the ocean is an extremely fun adventure for the whole family, as long as you check the rules ahead of time and know that Rover’s allowed and understand what’s expected of you. Most beaches have leash laws.
Make sure your dog is ready for the beach before jumping in. Try to let him get some water experience somewhere where there are no waves or any other hazards so he can get comfortable with his doggy paddle. If you’re still concerned, consider a dog lifejacket. Bathtubs and kiddy pools make great first tries for small breeds. No matter how strong a swimmer your dog is, be mindful of the conditions at the beach. If there is an undercurrent or riptide warning, stay out of the water. You can also talk to the lifeguard to ascertain if conditions are safe as far as waves and critters--jelly fish and sea lice are hazards for dogs as well as people.
Remember that dogs are sensitive to the sun just like we are. Using Sun Protection Shampoo will protect your dog’s skin and coat, and dog Sunglasses will shield delicate eyes. Also remember that wet, sandy collars don’t work well and they can irritate your dog’s neck, so check for sand under the collar and watch for rubs.
Exercise is more strenuous in the sand and heat, so be extremely vigilant. Dogs LOVE the beach; they can dig, they can run, they can swim, and there are all sorts of thrilling sights, sounds, and smells. All that excitement will often distract a dog from the fact that he is exhausted or overheated. You might feel bad reining your dog in from time to time in such a fun environment, but make sure he takes plenty of breaks to relax, have some water, and cool off in the shade.
When you leave the beach, rinse your dog off with fresh water, and make sure he gets a bath as soon as he gets home. Salt, bacteria, and pollutants in the water can irritate your dog’s skin and affect the health and beauty of his coat.
If nothing else, head to the dog park, or just out back and throw the ball for Rover. He really wants to play with you, and the exercise will do you both tons of good!