Happy New Year everyone! I hope that 2017 treats you all with great kindness, and that you and your pets are healthy and happy throughout the year.
At this time of year, a lot of people come up with new year’s resolutions and one resolution that lots of people take up is that of getting fit. Why not get fit with your dog? From personal experience, I have found that taking my dog with me for a run gives me a much greater incentive to get out there and actually START the run, but in addition, with 62% of companion animal vets saying pet obesity is one of their top concerns in a recent survey, it’s of benefit to your dog too.
Get yourself motivated
Time and motivation can be a real issue when it comes to getting out with our dogs, especially when it’s cold and frosty or raining outside, and there is a warm bed or fire inside! But it is worth it! Your dog will relish the time with you and the chance to explore out and about, and we know that exercise is not only good for our physical health but our mental health too. This is true for our pets too. Being out and about with your dog can help in building a closer bond between you both, which can only have a positive impact on everyone’s wellbeing. I also recommend that at least one walk a week is what I term a ‘sniffing walk’ - where our dogs dictate the walk. When they want to stop and sniff and explore the environment, we stop and wait until they are finished before moving on -this is less for physical fitness clearly, but is mentally very stimulating and rewarding for our dogs. Just make sure that you’re wrapped up warm as it’s rather chilly standing around sometimes!
Getting going and progressing forwards
So, how to go about reducing the ever expanding waistlines of our dogs (and possibly our own!) in a safe and sensible manner? Whilst you might want to go straight out and run 5km with your dog, in a ‘cold turkey’ sort of manner, we know that this is a strategy which carries a reasonable risk of injury (which puts you back on the sofa) if you and your dog have been couch potatoes for a some time. If you and your pet currently do very little, start by incrementally increasing your walk distance or time - maybe do one extra lap around the park or field, perhaps finish with a brisk period of walking towards the end -faster than your usual pace. Take toys with you that your dog can play with whilst you’re out and about.
If you want to progress to running with your dog then build up slowly - for your own health as well as your dog's! I personally found the couch to 5km programme brilliant when I started running - it builds up slowly with short runs interspersed with walks, with the walks getting progressively shorter and the runs getting longer. This is a good way to start with any unfit dog too. I would also strongly advise a warm up and cool down period for both you and your dog. For humans, a brisk 5 minute walk before running commences, and a similar 5minutes of walking at the end is ideal, with some stretching. This can work for your dogs, but please ensure that your dog actively stretches, rather than you passively stretching them, which can cause injury (there may be a blog post following about warming up and cooling down…!)
Clearly it goes without saying that before starting any new physical exercise regime you may want to consult with your doctor, and this can be something that we do with our pets - it may be worth a general health check with your vet to ensure that they are ok to increase their exercise -that their musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and respiratory systems, amongst others, are in good shape.
Finally, remember that all of this is about spending time with your dog and having fun! So why not get out and about this weekend and explore what the area has to offer both you and your dog?