Tips for Walking an Overweight Dog

Are you ready to get outside and help your dog shed some excess pounds? Here’s a quick guide to starting a new exercise routine for a mostly sedentary pet.

It’s extremely important for dogs to stay physically active. Even a small amount of extra weight can be detrimental to the health of certain breeds. If your dog is overweight but not obese, simply dedicating more time to going on walks can be beneficial.

Before beginning a new exercise program with your pet, consult your veterinarian. They’ll help ensure your pet is physically capable of the exercise and does not have any underlying health issues. They can also work with you on a plan that is tailored to your pet’s condition and needs if something more structured is required. If you’re concerned about your pet’s limited mobility, there are alternatives you can discuss with your vet, like physical therapy or special low impact exercises.

Getting started with a walking routine

Begin gradually. You probably couldn’t run a full 5k the very first time you go out for a jog, and your dog is the same! They need some time to build muscle and endurance. Consider setting a starting goal of 30 minutes of walking five days per week. If that’s too challenging for your pup, break it into shorter increments throughout the day, and start a slower pace that’s comfortable. From there, increase the duration and intensity of walks until you’ve reached the goal.

Once your dog becomes a pro at the original goal, set a new one! Pick up the pace and the length as long as your dog is up for the challenge. Your dog may even graduate to loyal running partner!

Be mindful of terrain, especially with a dog that isn’t accustomed to exercise. Hills or rough walking surfaces will make walks more difficult. You also must consider the weather – small dogs or dogs with thin coats could benefit from booties or clothing in cold temperatures, and dogs with heavy coats may require more stops for water, especially if it’s hot outside.

If you’re committed to a regular walking routine, it may be time to upgrade to a harness, which is more comfortable for your dog and easier on your muscles as you maintain control of the leash.

Here a few more creative tips for increasing your dog’s activity level:

  • Instead of rewarding good behavior with treats, use walks or playtime.
  • Encourage movement around the house by changing to location of your dog’s food, such as up or downstairs.
  • Playing fetch is also a great way to get your dog moving. Find a ball or squeaky toy they can’t resist!
  • Add play sessions into your daily schedule to make sure you set aside 20-30 minutes a day for engaging your pup.

4 Signs Your Dog is in Pain

One of the first things we do when we’re feeling under the weather is tell someone, either to inform them that we can’t perform regular activities, or to request their aid. When we see a doctor we tell them what symptoms we’re experiencing and we answer their questions to help them choose the best care plan. Because we can easily communicate with others how we feel and what we need, our ailments are generally quickly addressed and we’re on the mend in no time.

Animals, however, are not so fortunate. Our pets can’t tell us where it hurts. They can’t let us know they’re feeling sick. If we don’t witness the accident, we may not know that an injury is causing discomfort. That’s why it’s so important as a pet owner to familiarize yourself with your pet’s behavior and habits, and always keep an eye out for deviations.

Here are four types of changes you may see if your dog is experiencing pain or sickness.

Changes in basic activity/needs. Loss of appetite, difficulty eating, or drinking less water may be among the first red flags you notice. A dog that is in pain may also sleep more than usual – they are either trying to heal or fatigued from an underlying problem, or it is too difficult to go about regular activity. You should also watch for excessive self-grooming. Dogs lick their paws or wounds to soothe themselves and help healing, sometimes even when the injury is internal.

Changes in demeanor/behavior. Any dog that is usually friendly can become aggressive when feeling pain. Outgoing, happy dogs that are hurt or sick may exhibit antisocial behavior and hide away from owners. Increased vocalization, such as more yelping, snarling, or howling, is cause for concern. If your normally sweet pet is growling or snapping at you, or stops greeting you at the door, it could be a sign of a health problem.

Changes in movement. If your dog is normally active but has lost interest in playtime, it could be a sign that something is wrong. You may also notice limping, slowness, or reluctance/difficulty with usual maneuvers. Restlessness, like excessive pacing or lack of sleep, are also cause for concern.

Changes in body – appearance and function. Visible swelling in the body is an obvious sign that something isn’t right with your dog. Troubled breathing, like excessive panting and shallow breaths, are also clear indicators of a health problem when exercise is absent. Don’t dismiss shaking and trembling or oddly rigid postures; these could be warning signs of serious internal ailments.

Nobody knows your dog like you. As pet owners, we assume responsibility of knowing what is normal for our pets and what could be a sign of sickness or injury. If your dog exhibits a strange behavior or symptom, contact a veterinary professional. Never attempt to treat your pets with medications intended for humans. Your vet may prescribe common pain relievers, but certain types and doses can be toxic. While certain health conditions may be rare, it’s better to find out something is minor and not cause for concern than let a potentially deadly problem go untreated.

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