A tired dog also tends to be a bit healthier. More than half of the cats and dogs in this country are overweight or obese, according to a study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP). That extra girth carries an increased risk for diabetes, heart disease and several other pricey health issues no longer reserved for humans.
Since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 33.8 percent of adults and 17 percent of our kids and adolescents are obese, maybe the New Year is a perfect time to drop the remote and master the lost art of walking your dog.
Whether you take a short circle around the block or trek through the woods, focus on maintaining a good, steady pace. I quickly worked up a healthy glow trying to keep up with Hughes and his pit bull, Pearl, during their afternoon walk. Huffing and puffing (that would be me), we cruised the neighborhood to the tune of Pearl’s jingling collar.
“If you are really moving and have pep to your step — even for 10 minutes — it makes a big difference,” Hughes says. “Sometimes a good, solid 10-minute walk might be better than 20 minutes of playing ball in the backyard.”
Most dogs would spend their days playing fetch or tugging a rope toy, but Hughes says that dogs need physical and mental stimulation to avoid boredom or unwanted behavior. Consistent walks help dogs mentally reboot.
Always watch for potential distractions that may trigger your dog to react negatively.
Determine the safest option for you and your pet and be on the lookout for potential distractions. That means you will have to abandon phone calls, iTunes playlists or crime podcasts and enjoy Mother Nature, just like your pooch.
Know your pet’s limitations
Consider your dog’s age, weight and health conditions before establishing a walking routine. When in doubt, consult your veterinarian before engaging in any strenuous exercise. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention lists the ideal weight range for various breeds. An adult Labrador should weigh between 65 to 80 pounds. For overweight pets, the association recommends a walking regimen that begins with a brisk, 10-minute walk, followed by 20 minutes at a casual pace. Allow your pooch to stop and smell the roses — or the trash bins — during that second leg.
Everyone needs a little change of pace, including your pets. Taking the road less traveled often benefits pets — and their people.