Walk is no longer just a pleasure word for dogs. For many, it’s become a life-saver. With more than 50% of South African pets overweight or obese, regular exercise has never been more important. Walking is one of the best ways to shed weight.
Just as important as getting out there and walking is how you walk your dog. Few dogs (or dog walkers) walk fast enough to generate elevated heart rates. You need an elevated heart rate to burn excess calories.
Walk this way
One of the first things you need to do is check that your leash/harness is properly fitted. An ill-fitting lead, collar or harness can impede a dog’s progress and may even injure him. Collars and choke chains can place pressure on the trachea and are not the restraint of choice. Head collars/halters can improve control of the dog without impinging on the windpipe. Harnesses can be used but be aware that the design of some harnesses can restrict shoulder range of motion.
Ask at EberVet Vetshops for assistance in fitting your dog’s harness. All EberVet Vetshops look forward to welcoming your pets into our stores and being fitted on the premises means you have the best chance of choosing the right size. Leashes should be shorter as opposed to longer, for improved control.
In overweight dogs that have no underlying medical condition, aim for 30 minutes of walking 5 x a week. In the first two weeks this could comprise 10 minutes at a brisk pace followed by 20 minutes much slower. Week 3 and 4 split the walk into 15 minutes brisk and 15 minutes relaxed, and so on. Once the dog (and owner) can walk briskly for 30 minutes, they may choose to increase the time spent on this exercise. After 30 minutes of brisk walking, allow the dog to meander and sniff. Walking should be fun for your dog, not a dreaded chore!
Walk and swim
Our climate lends itself to swimming our canine companions. Swimming is an intense cardiovascular exercise and can form an integral part of any exercise and weight loss programme. Aim for 30 minutes of swimming with appropriate rests between lengths. It may be easier to count the number of lengths as opposed to timing a session.
Again, as with walking, it is important to gradually increase the amount of exercise. There may also be an introductory period where the dog needs to mentally adjust to the pool. It is advisable to have a step or platform available on which the dog can rest as jumping in and out of the water can create extra stress on joints. So-called oat coats (or life jackets) are available for those breeds that are not inherently strong swimmers.
Chasing balls or toys in the water can replace chasing in the garden and as such, also limit the risk of injury especially to cranial cruciate ligaments.
Obesity is a killer. It leads to a range of diseases like diabetes and heart disease https://www.ebervet.com/know-overweight-pets/ Physical exercise should be thought of as ‘fun with a purpose’. Introducing an exercise programme like walking or swimming may be exactly what the doctor ordered to motivate you, the pet owner, and shift the dog’s extra weight – article by Tanya Grantham, VetNews June 2018