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Less than 25% of people who start a diet and exercise routine stick to their plans for more than a month, but it’s a little harder to skip jogging when your dog is waiting for you at the door. Dogs are wonderful friends of hiking and exercise. Working with your dog on implementing healthy habits can increase motivation and make you both happier and healthier.
“A balanced diet and regular exercise are just as important for pets as they are for humans, and many of the health benefits of a healthy lifestyle are the same,” said Dr. Arielle Markley, Veterinarian in the Canine Physical Rehabilitation & Sports Medical Center at the Ohio State University Veterinary Center. “Your pet can help you be accountable because your plan is no longer just about your own health, it’s also about theirs.”
Health problems tend to be more common in overweight dogs. From knee injuries and arthritis problems to chronic diseases like diabetes, being overweight can affect your dog’s health.
Partnering with your dog might 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 you shouldn’t run a full marathon without training, this also applies to dogs. It’s important to work them up slowly, especially if your dog hasn’t been very active.
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Dr. Markley says when starting a diet and exercise plan with your dog just keep it in mind PAWS:
- To plan – Plan your workouts, make shopping lists, and schedule the daily exercises that will help you achieve your goals. Over time, you will see significant results if you make small, manageable changes.
- active – Get active with your dog in a way that you both enjoy, be it running, playing, or even doggie yoga.
- Wellness – Health checkups are vital for both you and your dog. Get regular checkups to make sure you are healthy enough to exercise and determine your specific dietary needs. Whenever you call your veterinarian to schedule your dog’s annual checkup, be sure to call your GP as well.
- success – Don’t forget to celebrate and reward your success, but try trading treats and junk food for extra love and attention for your dog.
“It’s not always easy to make positive and healthy changes in your life, but when you say to your pet, ‘We go out and walk every day,’ you’re doing it for them,” said Liz Weinandy, registered nutritionist at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. “This commitment can go a long way towards keeping this promise and achieving your goals.”
Before embarking on a strict diet or exercise program, talk to your doctor and veterinarian. It is important to make sure that there are no other health conditions that could prevent either of you from achieving your goals and to come up with a plan that is tailored to your individual needs.