Walking: The Easiest Way To Get Fit With Your Best (Dog) Friend
Discovery News article on pet obesity:
Obesity - it's all over the news these days. And now it's not just people who are struggling with their weight! According to Discovery News a study by Banfield Pet Hospital recently found that nearly a quarter of dogs in the US are either overweight or obese. The good news, for people and for dogs alike, is there is much we can do to combat the health issues associated with being overweight. Eating a balanced and healthy diet is important for us as well as our furry friends. So is getting plenty of exercise. Starting an exercise program can be intimidating though, and hard to stick with. Fortunately for dog owners not only does walking with your dog make it more likely that you'll stick to the routine, but walking with your dog is so easy to get started! You don't need to be an olympic athlete to start walking, and your dog definitely doesn't need to be an agility champ. Of course even for people and animals not struggling with their weight walking regularly is great for maintaining health. And on top of that it's a great bonding activity for a dog and dog owner to do together. It's also a great way to tire out high-energy dogs and combat behavioral problems!
Ok, so now you're sold on the idea of starting a walking routine with your dog. But how do you get started? It's so easy, and there are only a few simple things you need to get started. You know you need quality walking clothes and shoes for yourself, but what do you need for your dog?
1. The obvious: a leash
Dogs love to run and play off leash (and you definitely should make time for that as well!), but, when out walking a leash is the best way to keep your dog close to you, make sure he stays safe, and of course make sure you're following whatever the leash laws are in your area.
The Premier Easy Walk Harness
2. A harness, especially if your dog is prone to pulling
There are a lot of dog walking harnesses on the market and with my dog being an exuberant German Shepherd mix I definitely prefer to have one that gives me a little more control. I tried a head harness for a small time, but my dog Rusty didn't like it, and in addition I was always worried about pulling it the wrong way and hurting him. We love our Premier Easy Walk front attach harness though - it give me much more control than attaching his leash to his collar when we're out on walks. And luckily, he loves it! When Rusty sees me touch his Easy Walk harness his eyes light up and his tail starts wagging, because he knows it's walk time.
3. Something reflective for walking after dark
I work full time, but Rusty and I are both committed to walking at least twice a day, every day. If I ever even think of skipping a day, his big eager brown eyes immediately convince me otherwise. So with my work schedule, that often means our walks occur either before it gets light in the morning, or after it gets dark in the evening. Rusty's dark in color with a lot of black in his fur so I worry about his visibility at night. Even for a lighter colored dog though, I espouse the mantra of 'better safe than sorry' and recommend your dog (as well as you) wears something reflective to increase his visibility at night.
4. Speaking of walking after dark, a powerful flashlight
In addition to reflective apparel for your dog, it's smart to carry a flashlight as well after dark. Not only does it help you see when turning down a poorly it road, but it aids people in cars, making sure they see you. When we're walking next to a road at night and I hear a car coming, I shine my flashlight directly on Rusty's reflective vest, just to make sure cars won't miss us.
5. Poo pickup bags, because all responsible dog owners clean up after their pooches
Not too much needs to be said here. All dog owners should be respectful of the environment, other people and other dogs by cleaning up any waste their dog leaves behind on walks. I prefer baggies that are specially made for dog poo pickup, as they're the right length and extra thick, ensuring I can clean up after Rusty without accidently getting anything on my hands.
Does your dog struggle with on leash reactivity?
My favorite healthy dog treats:
6. Small sized treats, for mid-walk training and rewarding
Walking with your dog is not only fun, but it's a good time to sprinkle in some training as well. If your dog struggles with leash pulling, reactivity, etc. having treats on hand for walks is essential. It lets you reward his good behavior, and offers distraction if you see something/someone coming that you want your dog to ignore. I like very small treats, so that I can give as many per walk as I want without worrying about Rusty packing on any excess pounds. And I especially like treats that aren't too moist for walking, as I can toss them ahead of us and tell Rusty to play one of our little games, 'find it,' without his treat bouncing all over the place.
7. Something to carry your doggie poo bags, treats, house keys, etc.
With all of the little extras I like to have along on walks with Rusty, I also like to have some sort of treat pouch to carry things in. Pockets work, but when the weather turns warmer you may not always find that you have pockets on your dog walking outfit. And if you carry treats on every walk like I do, it's nice anyway to have a separate pouch just for the dog supplies so you don't end up with doggie treat crumbs in all of your coat pockets. (I learned this the hard way shortly after adopting Rusty.) I prefer something that will strap around my waist, for easy access. And having multiple divided pockets is especially convenient - I like one area for treats, one for a poo pickup bad, and a small separate enclosure for my house key.