Monday 22 December 2014

How to burn calories walking your dog

Tony Gallagher

Published 27/02/2013 | 14:16

January Jones takes her mutt for a walk

It is believed that dog owners tend be more active overall than most people, so that is encouraging news at the outset. According to a study by researchers at the University of Sydney, nine per cent of the coronary heart disease among dog owners could be prevented if they walked their

Regardless of what you do when dog walking, the animal's welfare must, of course, be paramount. The extent of how much walking or exercise you can do will depend on the dog's age, type and current state of health. A Jack Russell terrier, for example, can walk further generally than a relatively short-legged chihuahua. It's important to be fair at all times to your pet friend and base exercise levels on breed type. Ideally, if embarking on a new exercise regime for you and your dog, ensure that you consult your doctor and the dog's vet before starting.

You will have to consider the type of surface you are walking your dog on. Harder surfaces, such as concrete, may cause damage to their pads if you run a lot. It is also a good idea to take water with you or, at least, stop by places where dogs can have some drinkable water. If walking in the dark, it's a good idea to attach illuminated strips to your dog's collar or harness. Dressing in appropriate kit means you are better prepared, mentally and physically. With due consideration of these factors, why not try the following:

Keep it simple at first by going for either graduated longer walks or walking faster for the distance you regularly walk. This permits you and the dog to get used to the extra effort. If you are new to exercise, pick up the walking pace at every other lamp-post. Graduate then to fast walking for two lamp-posts and steady walking for one. You will build up your fitness together, over time.

Play games with your dog that involve you moving more. Throw a ball as far away from the dog as you can and, as they are retrieving it, run in the opposite direction as fast as you can. Repeat several times.

You have heard of professional dog walkers, no doubt, but there is also a professional dog runner based in Chicago (chicagodogrunner.com/FAQ.html). Some dogs like running. Each week, when I participate in 5km (three-mile) park runs I inevitably get passed by a participant with his or her dog on a lead or harness. Many of these events consist of laps, so you have the option of just doing shorter distances if you, and the dog, prefer.

There is probably nothing to stop you doing exercises using park equipment, like benches, where you can do a mini-circuit of bench dips, sitting-to-standing squats, alternative lunges and squats, using the bench as support if needed. And if your dog isn't very fit, it won't impact on you.

If your dog is trained to sit and stay, find a line of trees. You alone run to one tree and jog on the spot. Call your dog and when it reaches you, run back to the start with the dog. While the dog sits there, you run to a tree further along and then jog on the spot and repeat the sequence while running to a further tree each time.

You can repeat the same type of scenario on a hill, perhaps, or simply just trot up and down a few times. Why not set up a number of small jumping obstacles in the garden that you and the dog can jump together.

While walking is the activity you allude to in your question, there are other opportunities for exercise to consider, like mini hiking sessions in a wood, swimming or some careful rollerblading. Canine backpacks, hand-free leashes and swimming vests for dogs can be purchased if you feel that way inclined. Obviously swimming will not be suitable for some breeds but, if trying it, take it easy and reward the dog constantly (I haven't done this myself as I have three cats that just toddle off for walks on their own). Keep it fun and positive.

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