Guest blog by Heather Parsons (who has recently joined the Canadian K9 Lifetime Study team), with a few comments from Dr. Evason.
Hi my name is Heather. Everyone who knows me is aware that I am really serious about fitness for my canine family, and that I try to be serious about my own fitness, too.
As Canada moves towards the winter months, and the snow starts to fly, we may need to be more creative about how we ensure our canine buddies stay active. The same is true for us! It can be harder to stay motivated when the weather is foul. Fortunately, our pets can help us stay fit! I have two young Dalmatians who NEED to get out for some serious exercise every day. They do a great job of motivating me to get moving!
Many dogs continue to enjoy their daily walks despite the winter weather. Some dogs may benefit from coats or boots to keep them warm and cozy. Protecting feet from the ice and road salt is also important – so even if your pooch braves the weather with no complaints, boots may be a good idea. If you or your dog decide that winter is not for you, there are lots of indoor activities to stay fit. Some areas across Canada have indoor doggie pools, swimming is an awesome activity for staying fit and conditioning without undue stress on joints. Agility training can be a great way to stay active and busy (and warm!), check out indoor clubs in your area. Obedience classes can tire out your pup’s brain while you work on manners, or train for competition. If you have a bit of space in your home, you can set up a doggie gym area and do some strength/fitness training. For active breeds, a treadmill might be the answer to the days that are too stormy to be outside. We will look at each of these options, and more, as this blog continues. We would love to hear your suggestions for staying fit and active in all kinds of weather!
If you and your canine pal have been too busy to be regularly active, but you are ready to get fit together, it’s good to check in with the medical professionals in your lives. Before you embark on an exercise program, you should talk to your Doctor - and it is the same for your canine fitness companion. Talk to your veterinary team - they can advise you on appropriate exercise, diet, and help you towards your fitness goals.
Dr. Evason’s veterinary 2 cents: When things turn gray and gloomy outside, some of us (okay, yours truly), may need scientific support to help convince us to get moving. So, what about the science behind the importance of exercise AND the benefits of exercising with your K9 companion?
Just like the 2-legged animal (yes, I am talking about people), it’s well understood that canine obesity and weight gain result from myriad factors (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20402841).
And, once again similarly to humans…in dogs, increasing evidence has shown the positive effects of exercise on weight loss and ongoing weight maintenance (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26720083).
What is interesting (and unsurprising for those of who are admittedly K9 crazy and One Health focused), is that recent research also indicates that pet-owners are more likely to exercise their dog due to ‘dog responsibility’ or ‘the Lassie effect’ of dog health and enjoyment (https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-016-3660-2).
As such, the provision of regular exercise would seem sensible to support healthy life habits and weight management for dogs- along with their people. Not to mention that it’s tough to resist a pair of puppy love filled brown (or blue) eyes full of enthusiasm for one of life’s simplest (and in my opinion greatest) pleasures…walking the dog.