How to Lose Weight—With Your Dog!

*Disclaimer: Consult your physician before beginning any workout regimen. This article is not meant to be taken as medical advice.

Are you looking to shed a few extra pounds and don’t know where to start?  Instead of navigating crowded gyms with complicated equipment or struggling through the same boring workout videos at home, how about trying another way to lose weight that you’ll actually enjoy? It’s as simple as walking your dog!

Preventing health problems

It isn’t always just about what the scale says. Your dog needs the exercise as much as you do to stay healthy.

“In general, even a leisurely walk is good for your dog, both mentally and physically,” Bay Area based veterinary dermatologist Dr. Nicole Eckholm says.

That’s because many costly health problems can arise from sitting still—for you and your dog!

“Weight gain is the biggest factor with sedentary dogs, which leads to joint issues and arthritis later in life,” Dr. Eckholm says. “Exercise is good for everybody!”

Getting moving is good for mental health, too. You get the sunshine and fresh air and your dog gets to satisfy his primal urge.

“Animals migrate every day to get food and water,” California behavior therapist and trainer Beverly Ulbrich says. “By walking your dog with purpose every day, you are recreating this primal urge to find food and water as well as giving them an important job.”

Just get moving!

You may not think you have the time or the energy, but just get moving! Start slow if necessary— even a 15 minute walk will bring benefits. Keep in mind though, your dog will probably need more, so try to push on!

“To get started and get your dog in shape, 15 minutes is okay,” Ulbrich says. “But for some dogs, 15 minutes may rev them up. Any bad habits you’re trying to help them overcome by walking, 15 minutes isn’t going to do it.”

Longer walks will benefit you, too. A brisk 45-minute walk each day can help you burn up to 300 calories or even more, depending on the speed and incline. If you up the ante and go for a jog, you can burn even more!

Try this calorie burn calculator to see how increasing your intensity or activity can torch more calories and help your weight-loss program. You can even download the calculator on your phone.

Of course if you really want to go for it, you can bike with your dog or even take him on a hike. Make sure you protect your dog’s paws if you are headed off a well-maintained trail. Paw pads are not shoes and cannot withstand major impact from difficult terrain.

Protect your dog’s paws on an off-road hike or even hot asphalt. Image via Flickr.

Always consider your dog’s physical ability before making him go for a vigorous run or hike.

“You want to make sure they are in aerobic shape, as you would a human,” Ulbrich adds. “Younger puppies are also still developing bones and muscles, so be cautious. Don’t overdo it.”

Mixing it up

It doesn’t have to be a stale walk everyday. Try mixing up your routes, which will keep it interesting for you and your dog.

“They need new sights and sounds to keep them happy and keep their brains engaged,” Ulbrich explains.

You can also get in some additional body-weight exercise and dog training at the same time!

Practice sit/stays with your dog intermittently during your walk, taking the time to do body-weight exercises while your dog sits still and waits. Here are some suggestions for your exercises:

  • Squats (or jumping squats for a challenge)
  • Static or alternating leg lunges (or jumping lunges for a challenge)
  • Angled push-ups on a picnic table (or push-ups on the ground for a challenge)
  • Sit-ups/crunches (or bicycle crunches for a challenge)
  • Toe touches (or leg lifts for a challenge)
  • Planks (on elbows for a challenge)
  • Burpees (You may not be able to hold the leash during this activity, so your dog would have to be very well trained)
  • Mountain climbers
  • Stretches

Make sure to reward a job well done with praise or a cookie—for your dog! Work up to longer stays; start with just a few seconds and try working up to a full minute. Once your dog can reliably stay for a longer period of time, try upgrading to “lie down.”

“It’s important to communicate with your dog and let them know they’ve done the right thing, but don’t overdo it with the treats,” Ulbrich says. “Too many treats can negate the benefits of exercise. A ‘good boy’ or petting them is just as effective to communicate job well done.”

Staying motivated

Once you start getting into the grove of your fitness routine with your dog, his excitement with your daily activity will help keep you motivated to get up and moving.

Best of all, exercising with your dog is free! Gym memberships can run up to $100 for a family, but walking the dog at the beach, around the neighborhood, or at the park is a free—and fun—family activity.

Here’s to getting fit with Fido!

*Disclaimer: Consult your doctor before beginning any workout regimen. Make sure you understand how to correctly perform any exercises before you attempt them to avoid injury. This article is for entertainment purposes only and is not meant as medical advice or to replace the advice or your doctor. 

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