By Miki Miller
The dog days of summer are finally over! The cooler days and crisper nights make this the perfect time to exercise your dog – and yourself! After all, neither of you want to become fat cats. Who can resist the rustle of fallen leaves under their feet (or paws)?
Studies show humans benefit as much from exercising their dogs as the pooches. One study revealed overweight dog-walkers who began taking four-legged companions on regular strolls lost an average of 14 pounds a year!
In addition to walks or jogs, a growly game of tug of war is fun, and fetch with a ball or frisbee is a muscle-stretcher. Some dogs take to fetch naturally while others take a you-go-get it attitude. Other dogs, like spaniels, retrievers, and poodles, love to take a dip. If you have a beach or lake nearby, it’s a good, low-impact exercise. Regardless of what regimen you choose, the important thing is to get out and do it!
Don’t rule out the backyard. Your dog will be thrilled to have you outside, playing with him. Make sure your fence is secure, and your grass will hold up well to heavy foot traffic...or rather paw traffic. Bermuda grass is durable and great for Mississipi lawns. It does need regular fertilizing, so be sure to choose an organic fertilizer that won’t hurt your pup.
Before you and your pal embark on an exercise program, there are some things to consider:
- If you don’t already have a dog-exercising routine, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start out slowly with regular strolls around the block or through the park. Just like you, your buddy needs to start an exercise routine gradually. Work your way up to longer routes or a jog. Puppies’ bones and muscles are still growing, so don’t force them into too much exercise. If your pup – or you – gets winded, take a break.
- The breed and age of your dog may affect how much exercise he or she needs. Generally, big dogs bred for hunting or retrieving need more exercise than smaller house breeds. Dogs with short snouts can develop breathing difficulty if they overdo it. Size can also be a factor in the calories they burn. Remember, a small dog has to take a lot more steps to go as far as you do. Even older dogs need a little regular workout unless a medical condition prevents it.
- Take along supplies. Carry a couple of bottles of water to share. You can find collapsible water bowls at pet stores and online. Include some doggie treats.
- In neighborhoods, keep your dog leashed to avoid a dash into a street or a visit to a yard where he’s not welcome. Don’t let your companion stop to pee on somebody’s rosebush. Studies show other people’s dogs are a major nuisance to homeowners. Many cities have dog parks where pets can roam free and socialize. If your dog is off the leash out in the country, make sure she heeds commands.
- Be a good citizen. Carry a pooper scooper and bags to dispose of waste, whether you’re on a sidewalk or in a park. Even in your backyard, proper disposal can prevent the spread of disease to animals and humans.
Spend some quality time with your pal this fall. If that pile of autumn leaves is just too tempting to resist – that’s OK. Leaf-romping is a good resistance exercise.
Miki Miller writes and blogs about animals, gardening, landscaping, and pest control. She loves pugs and pizza, oh, and her husband, too.