Less than 25% of people who start a diet and exercise routine stick with their plans for more than a month, but it’s a little tougher to skip your jog if your dog is waiting for you by the door. Dogs make wonderful walking and exercise buddies. Partnering with your dog when implementing healthy habits can add motivation and will make you both happier and healthier.
“A balanced diet and regular exercise are extremely important for pets, just like they are for humans, and many of the health benefits of a healthy lifestyle are the same,” said Dr. Arielle Markley, a veterinarian in the Canine Physical Rehabilitation & Sports Medicine Center at The Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center. “Your pet can help keep you accountable because your plan is no longer just about your own health, but also theirs.”
Health problems tend to occur more often with overweight dogs. From knee injuries and arthritis issues to chronic illnesses like diabetes, excess weight can adversely affect your dog’s health.
Forming a partnership with your dog could be the motivation you need. There are many creative ways to get active with your dog, such as dog yoga, dog agility, and couch to 5K programs, but start slowly as with any new program. Just as someone shouldn’t run a full marathon without training, the same holds true for dogs. It’s essential to work them up slowly, especially if your dog hasn’t been highly active.
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Dr. Markley says, when starting a diet and exercise plan with your dog, just remember PAWS:
- Plan – Schedule your workouts, make grocery lists, and plan out the daily practices that are going to help you reach your goals. Over time, you’ll see significant results if you make small manageable changes.
- Active – Get active with your dog in ways that you both enjoy, whether that’s running, playing, or even doing doggie yoga.
- Wellness – Checkups are crucial for both you and your dog. Get a regular checkup to ensure you are healthy enough for exercise and determine your specific dietary needs. When you call your vet to schedule your dog’s annual checkup, give your primary care physician a call as well.
- Success – Don’t forget to celebrate and reward your success, but try swapping out treats and junk food for some extra love and attention for your dog.
“Making positive, healthy changes in your life isn’t always easy, but if you say to your pet, ‘We are going to go out and walk every day,’ then you’re doing it for them as well,” said Liz Weinandy, registered dietician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “Making that commitment can go a long way toward keeping that promise and reaching your goals.”
Before getting started on any rigorous diet or exercise program, talk to your doctor and veterinarian. It’s important to make sure that there aren’t any other health conditions that might keep either of you from your goals and have a tailored plan to your individual needs.