Jog a Dog: Forgo the Gym, Get a Pooch

Dogs, Pets — By on January 13, 2012

Determined to get in shape this year? Forget the gym membership, get a dog. Canines are excellent exercise partners. If you’d like to reach your fitness goals, visit your local shelter and take Buddy for a test run.

January is a boon month for fitness centers and cold (or so I’ve been told). New Year’s resolutions motivate people to buy memberships that most will have forgotten by Memorial Day. If you want to work out, now may be a good time to get that doggie in the window. Visit the local shelter to find a faithful friend and fitness partner.

A study by the University of Missouri-Columbia’s College of Veterinary Medicine, found that owning a dog encourages people to exercise well, doggedly. Benefits include weight loss, improved cardiovascular fitness, lower blood pressure, stronger muscles and reduced stress. Not to mention increased self esteem each and every time you, God’s gift to dogkind, walks in the door!

Interestingly, this physical activity goes beyond that done on one end of a leash. According to Michigan state researcher Matthew Reeves, “There appears to be a strong link between owning and walking a dog and achieving higher levels of physical activity, even after accounting for the actual dog walking.” Dog walkers are more likely to be dancing, gardening, and playing sports in their free time (and you thought owning a pooch would be a time mooch)!

Walking dogs is even good for your social life and not just because a cute pup can be a chick magnet. University of Western Australia researchers found that owning a pet can make you more involved in your neighborhood. Canine owners are more likely to acknowledge and greet people in the street, get to know others in their community and exchange cups of sugar with their neighbors. Sweet! Perhaps a day will come when tenants without dogs are viewed with suspicion.

Like people, some canines make better fitness companions than others. If you have visions of going on a jog with your dog, choose your breed wisely. Although whippets and greyhounds can cover short distances at incredible speeds, they are not built for stamina. Longer runs may be more apropos for Weimaraners, German shorthaired pointers, Aussies or border collies. If you want a small dog that can keep up, your best bet is a jack russell terrier. These jack-in-the-boxes are the Energizer bunnies of small breeds. They keep going and going and going…

Be warned that most of the recommended running partners are breeds with (ahem) higher than average energy levels. Not exercising a Weimaraner, is a sure way to turn it into a Whinearaner. In order to have a good fitness partner, be prepared to attend some training classes. If not, you may end up stopping to smell not just the roses but every tree, bush, hydrant, tire and rock on the block.

Your couch pupato may be right; exercise can be dangerous for some pups. Smushy-faced (not to get all technical on you) pups should be highly monitored because they are prone to overheating. Long-haired hounds may need shaved in warm climes. Puppies should not be taken on runs until their bones are developed. Beware of bloat, the most common killer of big-chested dogs. Bloat can occur after a dog combines vigorous exercise with food or water.

Still on the fence about getting a canine fitness companion? Consider this: a University of Missouri study found that people who walk dogs exercise more consistently and show more progress than people who opt for human companions. Apparently, Homo sapiens tend to cop out but canines are always gung ho.

So what’s your excuse? Ready to commit and get fit? Visit your local shelter today and select a four-legged ball of inspiration! With a little impetus from your new buddy, you’ll keep going and going and going…

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