Easy ways to help your dog burn calories

We share a lot with our dogs, including our tendency toward obesity. You may remember Dermot, the winningest pug in the history of the breed, from Westminster a few years back. Dermot, like most pugs, was at risk of packing on extra pounds. To keep him fit for the show ring, his trainer exercised him twice a day on his pug-sized, state-of-the-art treadmill. That worked well for Dermot, but most of us don't have the budget for customized exercise equipment for our dogs. Luckily, there are easier and less expensive ways to help our pooches burn extra calories and stay in shape.

Swimming - If you have a pool or live near a dog beach, swimming is a wonderful way to exercise your dog. In addition to burning extra calories, it is a low-impact exercise which makes it ideal for older dogs who may suffer from joint pain. My pug's stocky body makes it difficult for her to swim, so I put a lifejacket on her and hold onto the handle as we move back and forth across the pool. My Yorkie loves the water and is thrilled to dive in to retrieve his favorite toy. Swimming can be strenuous, so we keep their workouts short and repeat them often.

Play dates - It may seem strange to arrange play dates for your dog, but we discovered the benefit when we added a Yorkie puppy to our household. Up until then our two, 15-year-old schnauzers and our lazy pug were very happy to lie around all day, only getting up to do their business and eat. That all changed when the puppy entered the scene. Even though he's no longer a puppy he keeps them on their toes by playing tug-of-war with toys and chasing them around the house and yard (and then letting them chase him). You don't need to get a new puppy to enjoy this benefit, though. Simply arrange play dates with the dogs of friends and let them run around burning calories while you catch up on the latest gossip and sip margaritas.

Interactive games - My daughter has an adorable beagle which is starting to get a little pudgy. They live in a small apartment in New York City, so they don't have a lot of options for exercising her. Luckily they have a terrace, so they're able to play "monkey in the middle." The dog loves chasing the ball back and forth, and as long as you let her catch it every now and then, she'll play for as long as you're willing.

An estimated 20 percent of dogs in the U.S. are either overweight or obese. Among other things, this can lead to heart disease, joint problems, and diabetes. Anything that gets your dog up and moving when they would otherwise be napping will burn extra calories and help keep them healthy. Being creative with your dog's exercise will keep him stimulated, happy, and healthy.

Sources:

"Overweight Dogs and Canine Weight Loss Diets," WebMD

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