Exercising with Your Dog
If Your Dog is Getting Fat, You're Probably Not Getting Enough Exercise
Getting in shape isn't just something we do for ourselves, it's also important for dogs. You get an exercise companion that's almost always eager and ready to go, your pet gets to enjoy the world. But before you take Fido out for a morning jog, there are a few important things you need to do first.
Lets start with the obvious. If you don't already own a dog, you need to choose a breed that both enjoys and is physically capable of staying up with you. For example a dachshund doesn't have long enough legs to go very far and bulldogs are extremely sensitive to heat. But German Shepherds, Collies or English Sheepdogs are all bred for herding and enjoy moving around. Greyhounds, Golden Retrievers and Staffordshire Terriers are good running breeds too.
Avoid the very large dogs like Great Danes or Bullmastiffs. Often they have lower energy levels, more difficulty moderating body temperature and some are prone to hip dysplasia. That doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't take them out for walks or your warm-up, but jogging may be a problem.
Your best bet is a medium-built dog that weighs between 50 and 70 pounds and has short hair. Mixed breeds or mutts often have an advantage over purebreds because they tend to be less prone to genetic problems. There are plenty of mutts waiting for attention at your local dog shelter or pound.
If you've already got a dog but he's too small to jog, too ill to go out or otherwise unable to join you, all is not lost. There are plenty of dog owners who are too busy to regularly exercise their pets. Check with friends or neighbors that have dogs and see if they would let you take them out.
Once you have a dog, you need to get them ready for a run the same way you prepare, with a physical. Dogs with pre-existing conditions such as heartworms or a heart murmur need to be cleared by a veterinarian first. In fact, it's a good idea to get a vet checkup no matter what condition your dog appears to be in.
Don't start running with a puppy. It takes a few months for the bones to harden and the animal to be trained properly. Smaller dogs can start as early as 6 months, for medium and larger size dogs you might need to wait a full year.
Start slow. Walk with your dog 10 to 15 minutes, once or twice a day to begin. Your first walk should be to determine stamina. If they're still running around, bouncing and excited, you can generally keep going. No matter how enthusiastic he or she may be, limit the first few walks to 20 minutes or less. As you both get in shape, you can add more time; build up to jogging and eventually longer runs.
Don't be surprised if your pet is sore the day after your first walk. Just like humans, it can take their muscles a little time to adjust to the exercise, repair and grow strong.
Never bring your dog with you for the longest runs. Anything over 3 to 5 miles can be too much even for animals in the best of shape. Generally the smaller the dog, the shorter distances they can handle. If you want to run a half or full marathon; plan your route so you can drop your pet off after their portion of the run. Then you can continue on with your training.
Check your dogs' paws at the start and end of every outing. You're looking for blisters, cuts or tenderness. If you see a problem, don't take your dog out again until after they've healed. Also remember to keep their toenails trimmed so they don't snag it on anything when they run.
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