Exercising your options: Dog and owner benefit from regular walking routine
By Karen Pearlman
Copley News Service
Exercising with your dog strengthens not only you and your dog but also the bond between you. Dogs benefit from a physical activity just as humans do.
Where? Anywhere dogs are allowed. Some cities have rules that forbid animals in parks, including leashes, so be sure to check before traversing any area. Those fit enough can take part in several walks or races that encourage dog entrants.
Only torrential rain stops 50-something Judith Sharp, a retired schoolteacher from walking her 9-year-old German shepherd, Greta, with her husband, Jim. Sharp has had a plethora of dogs through the years.
“We go 45 minutes to an hour every day,” Sharp says about the walks they take. “We do not miss taking her unless it’s pouring rain. It’s just a regular part of our having an animal.
“She knows the time of day and even when it’s a weekend. She knows the difference. It’s like she almost says, ‘Let’s go, when are we gonna go?’ Before I retired (and the Sharps had another dog that recently died), they knew after I came home, and Jim after me, that it was time to go for a walk.
“Dogs have always been key to our exercise routine. I joined a gym, but (walking Greta) is our primary source of exercise. Dogs enjoy it so much, you know it’s mutually beneficial.
“There are days you can talk yourself right out of going for a walk, but you’ve got that dog sitting at the door going, ‘I don’t know about you, but I need my exercise!’”
If your dog is new to vigorous, continual cardiovascular activity, check with your veterinarian to make sure the dog is in good health.
TIPS FOR A HAPPY DOG WALK
- When starting a new walking program, go slowly at first and add time, speed and distance gradually.
- It’s a good idea to walk on soft surfaces until the dogs’ footpads toughen, as well as keep their nails trimmed.
- Wait until the dog has digested its meal before walking and offer the dog water before and after exercising.
- Remember that, like humans, dogs can get frostbite (something to remember if you walk your dog in the winter in places where it snows) and heatstroke, and no matter how tough the pads are, hot asphalt hurts.
- Warm-up slowly and gently, then go at a comfortable pace for you as well as your dog.
- Keep an eye on your dog in case it limps from a possible injury or burrs, thorns, foxtails, or rocks in between its toes.
- Check for ticks when the walk is over, as well. And of course, keep a bag or two for collecting Fido’s droppings.
WHAT YOU NEED
Besides a willing, leashed dog, a good pair of walking or running shoes, a filled water bottle (for you) and a bowl (for your dog), perhaps a treat for your dog (and maybe one for you, too) as a reward for a walk well-done.
Calories burned are similar to that of walking at a brisk pace, about 3 mph. For a 130-pound person, that will burn 207 calories an hour; for a 190-pound person, that will burn about 302 calories an hour.
A final word of caution: When in parks, watch for rattlesnakes, poison oak, poison ivy, fleas, and ticks. Not all dogs are friendly, so be cautious if another dog approach or your dog moves to get closer to another.