According to the 2015 National Pet Obesity Association Survey, about 53.4% of U.S. dogs are either overweight or obese. That’s over 58,000,000 pets who could be living longer, healthier and happier lives - all they need is a balanced diet and regular exercise.
The good news is, there are a few simple steps you can take to improve Fido’s wellbeing. Dogs who stay fit enjoy a faster metabolism, higher energy levels, improved muscle tone and are less likely to develop behavioral problems. Here are seven time-tested ways to keep your dog fit and healthy.
#1 - Know Your Dog’s Needs
Most dog owners don’t realise that their pets have very different nutritional needs. Canines can’t even digest many human foods, so giving them table scraps is often worse than not feeding them at all.
Meanwhile, if you know what you’re doing, you can make the perfect balanced doggie meal without spending a dime at the pet store. These canine ‘superfoods’ contain all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients Fido needs:
- Hard boiled eggs
- Sweet potato
- Unsalted chicken or turkey filet
- Goat yogurt
- Broccoli, spinach and kale (mixed in with more appetizing foods)
- Dried apple slices, blueberries and raspberries
#2 - Avoid Junk Food
Everyone can benefit by eliminating junk food from their menu. However, there are foods that are much more dangerous to dogs then a cheeseburger and large fries are to humans. Make sure your dog never eats any of these:
- grapes (including raisins)
- Caffeine-containing products
- Macadamia nuts, uncooked peanuts and fruit seeds
- Cooked bones
#3 - Provide Constant Hydration
Your dog should have access to fresh water 24/7. Check in to make sure his/her water bowl isn’t empty and rinse it at least two times per day. Also, don’t forget to pack an extra bottle when you take your pooch outside for longer than an hour. You should spray some water on their head and back to keep them cool and hydrated on those hot summer days.
#4 - Follow an Exercise Schedule
Just like humans, dogs need consistency when it comes to staying fit. You can’t sit on the couch all week, then get up and run a marathon. And you shouldn't expect your dog to get all their running done over the weekend.
An hour of running each day, 5 days a week, is the bare minimum. And if you’re too busy to take Fido to the park, you can always hire a trusted dog-walker (or see #5.)
#5 - Get Involved In Doggie Sports
If you like competition or just want to have fun with your pup, join a local dog sports league. There’s a very long list of canine sports out there and you’re bound to love one of them. Here are some long-time favorites:
In this competitive, often televised sport, dogs of all shapes and sizes are led through an obstacle course by their handler. They must traverse each obstacle correctly and get to the finish line as quickly as possible.
Disc Dog (a.k.a. Frisbee Dog)
Both a dog and his owner participate in this popular sport. Most U.S. communities organize monthly tournaments with multiple events. These include distance catching - where the dog has to outrun a frisbie - and freestyle catching, which showcases the handler’s bond with his pet.
The dog version of Competitive Diving is called Dock Jumping. Each participant is judged on how high and far they jump, in addition to how well they stick the landing.
#6 - Stay Fit Together!
Your dog isn’t the only one who needs to stay fit! Believe it or not, many people get a dog just so they can have a devoted jogging partner. Make it a habit to go for a run every morning and take man’s best friend along with you.
Jogging is not only a great way to keep both man and dog in good shape - it’s also a powerful bonding experience. If you’re having trouble training your pup to follow commands, there is no better remedy than this.
#7 - Never Miss a Veterinary Check-Up
Your dog won’t tell you if something is bothering him/her and most people don’t know the warning signs of canine illnesses. The only way to make sure you aren’t neglecting Fido’s wellbeing is to check in with the vet at least twice a year.