by Sara Angle
CN Digital Studio Get ready to shed some pounds with your pup--pun intended. Just in time for spring, Victoria Stilwell, author of Train Your Dog Positively, which hit shelves yesterday, gave us her top tips for exercising al fresco with your dog.
Don't torture your puppy with doga, says Stillwell. "The majority of dogs that I've seen do it, do not look happy," says Stilwell. Instead, she recommends hiking, running, swimming or simply playing in the backyard as the best way to workout with your dog, but says that walking is absolutely the most important thing.
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A good walk or hike outside allows dogs to use their innate senses to smell things around them that they miss out on when they're cooped up indoors. Did you know that a dog's sense of smell is up to 100,000 times stronger(!!!) than humans' sense? Those nostrils need to get worked. Being outside is not only beneficial for your pet, it can also do wonders for your own body.
If you're looking for more cardio, running can be a great activity to do together, but make sure your dog likes it--and has enough energy to withstand a long run. "There is nothing worse out there than seeing a jogger or a runner dragging their dog who clearly doesn't want to run with them, or a dog like a dachshund," Stilwell laments. She warns that short-nosed breeds, like Shih Tzus and pugs, should also not be taken on long runs because anatomically, they cannot breathe as well as other breeds. (Come on, you KNOW that smush face can't last during your 10-miler.)
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"A lot of people have the best intentions [when they take their dogs running]. The dogs may still be fit, but they haven't built up the stamina in their dog. You have to give your dog time to build up its stamina and fitness level too," she says.
Have a stubborn pooch that doesn't like to exercise? Stilwell says there is usually something else going on if your dog doesn't wanna go for a walk. Ask yourself: Is your dog in pain? Is it a behavioral issue? Take your pup to the vet to find out, and then make sure you are using equipment that is comfortable for them. She suggests attaching a leash to a harness rather than a nylon collar, and for dogs that pull, use a harness that attaches to the front of their chest, which is their center of gravity.
Make sure to also keep hydration and temperature (for both of you!) front of mind, too. Because dogs are closer to the ground (and have fur coats--duh), they heat up more quickly. So, if it's going to be a hot day, stick with early AM or evening exercise. Stilwell also suggests bringing along a water bottle/bowl combo for longer walks or runs and allowing your pet to drink "little and often." Now if only it would get warmer so we (and our dogs) could get out there.
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by Sara Angle