How Far Should I Walk My Overweight Dog

Dogs that aren’t given daily exercise and stimulation are at risk of not only becoming bored and destroying your house and yard in an attempt to entertain themselves, more seriously, they are also at risk of becoming overweight.

While you might think your dog looks cute with their belly and a few extra rolls, pets that are overweight are actually at risk of more serious health problems, not to mention the extra weight can decrease the quality and length of their life.

If you’re looking to start your dog on an exercise program to help with their weight, it’s always best to consult with your local vet first. No doubt they will tell you that the best way to help your dog get back into shape is to decrease their calorie intake and increase their exercise. While it can seem like a hard thing to get into the habit of doing, daily exercise for your dog is the most effective way to help them lose that extra weight.

Depending on a dog’s age, breed and starting fitness levels, what exercise and how much they should be doing, especially in the beginning, may vary. Your vet will likely perform a physical exam which will help to check whether your dog has any underlying health concerns that may need to be considered when exercising them, such as joint issues or arthritis. They can also help you to formulate a plan that best suits your dogs unique situation. One pretty much universal activity however that any vet is likely to recommend, no matter where your dog’s starting point may be, is a daily walk.

The Benefits of Walking Your Dog Daily

Something as simple as taking your dog for a walk each day helps to increase the speed of their metabolism and improves their muscle tone. This allows them to start increasing their amount of daily exercise and the intensity of that exercise, which helps to further boost their weight loss journey.

As well as tackling any weight issues, daily walks are also going to help your dog as they age, as regular exercise helps to slow down natural muscle loss and can help to ease the symptoms of issues such as arthritis, which older dogs become more prone to.

Daily walks are also great for all dogs because they put less strain on muscles and joints than more strenuous exercise such as running or playing fetch.

How Far Should I Walk My Dog?

If you and your dog are just starting out and you’re looking for some guidance on the best way to start their daily exercise routine, here are a few tips based on your dog’s starting situation.

    • Overweight dogs with no heart, joint or respiratory issues - in this scenario, going on a 30 minute brisk walk daily around five times a week is a great starting point. Keep in mind, this isn’t a casual stroll, you’re doing this to help your dog loose weight, so make sure to have a more brisk pace to your walk that will allow your dog’s heart rate to elevate. If you find that getting out five times a week is a bit tricky to start, going three times a week for the first month is also a perfectly good starting point. This will allow both you and your dog time to adjust to the new routine while you work towards going on walks five to seven days a week.

    • Obese dogs that have been inactive for a long period of time - if your dog hasn’t been having daily exercise for quite a while, start things slow. Something as simple as a daily 5 minute walk around the block will allow your dog to adapt to the new movement without putting too much extra strain on their body. While short, these walks are also not casual and should be done at a brisk pace. Allow your dog time to stop and smell as they need and this will also give you a chance to check on their breathing and how they’re going with the walk. As they build up their stamina and muscle strength, increase the walks to 10 minutes, then 20 minutes, heading out once or twice a day.

    • Overweight dogs with limited mobility - if your dog’s weight is also affecting their ability to move, this is when it’s best to check in with your local vet first to make sure you don’t have them doing any exercise that might just do their body’s more harm then good. If their mobility is a serious issue your dog may need to undergo some rehabilitation or physical therapy before they get into any more serious exercise. Your vet may recommend that they actually start with more low impact alternatives such a swimming or hydrotherapy, where they walk on a treadmill underwater, to help build their body back to a point where it’s safe for them to start exercising on harder ground.

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Food and Daily Exercise

Of course feeding your dog correctly is also just a crucial to weight loss as exercising them, so be sure to talk to your vet about also putting together a specific meal plan to make sure all the work your putting in isn’t being eaten away at meal time.

This is also something to consider when it comes too treats. While taking them on walks, especially at the beginning, you may want to offer them treats to help motivate or train them. If your dog is already overweight, make sure you pay close attention to the treats you're purchasing and how may you’re giving them. If you are wanting to purchase something special, make sure to opt for a low calorie option. Otherwise simple things such as carrots or even some of their kibble are also great and healthy options.

Keep an Eye on Your Dog’s Breathing

While you’re walking, it is important to pay attention to your dog’s breathing. Dog’s that are overweight have a higher risk of respiratory difficulties. This is because the extra fat in their chest can prevent their lungs from fully expanding, while the extra fat in their abdomen can start to push against their diaphragm which can make it harder for their lungs to receive oxygen.

If your notice your pet seems to have a shortness of breath, is having difficulty breathing or starts coughing at any point on your walk, either slow down or take a break to give them time to recover. This will also allow you to better assess the situation to determine if maybe you should cut the walk short.

Use the Right Walking Equipment

When taking your dog for a walk, most of us just think of a collared lead, but for overweight dogs, this standard walking equipment may do more harm than good. Standard collars can push on and put too much pressure on a dog’s trachea, which can cause them to have further difficulties breathing or even injure themselves if they’re pulling too much. If you think a collar isn’t right option for your pet, consider using a head halter or walking harness instead. If you’re ever unsure about the best and safest way to fit walking equipment, especially things like a head harness, always consult with your local vet.

It’s also a good idea to bring a portable water bowl and some water on your walks, especially longer ones, to make sure your dog doesn’t become dehydrated and over heat.

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A Few Other Things to Think About

If your dog’s body is up to it, you can also bring in more daily exercise simply by playing with them. Get them some squeaky toys, balls or whatever they prefer and play fetch with them a couple of times a day for 15 minutes. This is not only fun for your dog, it also easily ups their daily exercise without much extra effort.

To get your dog excited about exercise, make walks or play time a reward for their good behaviour. Using this instead of something like treats will not only get them more motivated to exercise, it can also help cut down on their daily calorie intake.

Another trick for adding in just a little more exercise is moving their food bowl. Change the location of where it sits, especially if you can change from upstairs too downstair, or vice versa. This will mean your dog has a to walk a little further to get their food and every little bit counts.

If you need to get serious about your dog’s weight loss, make sure to keep track of how long you and your pet are walking each week, as well as any extra time you spend playing. This will help ensure you're staying on track and allow you to see if you maybe you need to start increasing the amount of exercise you’re doing daily.

If you and your dog are on a weight loss journey, it’s always important to remember these things take time. Start off slow and give yourselves time to adjust to the new routine and allow your dog to build up their endurance. By sticking to your plan and making sure you are getting those daily walks in, along with a healthy diet, you will start to see your pet slimming down in no time.

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