The cherry blossoms are in bloom and now is a great time to have our canine companions join us for a run, a walk in the woods or a swim at the lake. You may have been working out at the gym throughout the cold winter months, but has your dog been keeping fit? Or has he been home on the couch, with only the occasional trot around the backyard for exercise? Before you take a 3 mile jog with your dog, on a beautiful spring day, it is your responsibility to view and respect your dog as an athlete. Is your dog in good condition? What is your dog’s structure? Are you feeding a nutritionally balanced diet?
Before starting any exercise program with your dog, they should be given a thorough physical examination by a competent veterinarian. It is important to determine if there are any pre-existing conditions that may compromise your dog’s ability to exercise. Dogs with physical conditions such as hip and elbow dysplasia that can result in arthritis should be given only moderate exercise throughout their lives. The best bet for these dogs is swimming, because it is a non-weight-bearing exercise.
Any exercise program you start with your dog should begin gradually and should be worked on consistently. Exercise and conditioning is not just a weekend activity. Your dog’s exercise program should include general conditioning exercises, such as swimming, retrieving, walking or running. Retrieving is a wonderful method to exercise a dog, but it has a high potential for injury. The use of frisbees as a retrieving toy should be used cautiously and only thrown low to the ground to prevent the dog from twisting on landing. Pet Pantry recommends the Chuck-It for those handlers that have trouble throwing a ball. It can help the handler throw the ball further and avoid handler injury from the repetitive motion of pitching a ball.
Mental conditioning is also essential for your dog’s well-being. Play with your dog! Frequent play periods are the best way to mentally condition a dog. Play is an important part of a dog’s emotional make-up. Tug-of-war and hide-and-seek are great games to relieve your dog’s stress while increasing the focus on the owner and strengthening the human-canine bond. Pet Pantry carries many safe tug toys that will stimulate a dog’s play drive.
A healthy diet is crucial for your dog’s long term health and longevity. Come into one of our locations and speak with our nutritional experts. They will help you choose a great food for your canine athlete.
Take the time to appreciate your dog’s marvelous athletic ability and use common sense before beginning any exercise program. Remember – just like you, your dog needs one day off a week.