Health Advocate Blog

Get fit with Fido!

It is well documented that adding a pet to your family has many benefits, both for your physical and mental well-being. Among the perks is that dog owners especially are more active than people without a furry friend nudging them out the door before sunrise each day. In recognition of National Walk Your Dog Week, here are a few ideas and tips to keep in mind to reap the rewards of going for a stroll, power walk or even jog with a canine companion.

Safety first!

Although walking with your dog offers many positives, it is still important to take steps to keep both of you safe while out and about. First, ensure both you and your dog are up to exercising by checking with your doctor and their veterinarian. According to VCA (Veterinary Centers of America), this is particularly important for puppies and senior dogs. Once given the all-clear, take these precautions before setting off each walk:

  • Use an appropriate leash and harness as recommended by your veterinarian or trainer that your dog is comfortable with. And make sure you are also wearing appropriate clothing and footwear for exercise!
  • Know your route and ensure it is free of construction, busy roads without sidewalks or wide shoulders, or other hazards.
  • Be cautious in extreme weather – if it’s particularly hot outside, place the back of your hand on the pavement for a few seconds. If it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your dog. In extreme heat or cold, booties can help protect their paws, but try to avoid the hottest or coldest times of day to reduce exposure. In winter, also beware of salt used to melt ice; it can burn their paw pads. Booties or special balms can minimize the risk.
  • If walking in early morning or night, be sure to wear lights or reflective gear so drivers or cyclists will see you coming.
  • Ensure your dog has a tag on his or her collar just in case you accidentally get separated.
  • If going for a longer walk, bring water along with a small bowl to stay safe. And no matter the length, ensure fresh water is offered to your pup when you get home.

How often to walk

The American Heart Association recommends adults get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise. This can be divided up throughout the day/week as your schedule allows, and luckily, that works great for your dog, too. Depending on size and breed, most dogs benefit from at least 30 minutes of exercise each day, but this can be split into two shorter walks in the morning and evening. If you take your dog on two 15-minute walks per day, you will exceed the minimum recommendation for your exercise as well, benefiting you both!

Need a buddy?

Even if you don’t currently have a dog at home, there are multiple other ways to find a new friend for a walk.

  • Adopt! If you and/or your family are ready to welcome a new addition, contact local rescue organizations to find the perfect pup for your family. Petfinder has a searchable directory of animal shelters and rescues to make it easy.
  • Help a neighbor – If you have a neighbor who has a tough time getting out, whether they’re older, have young children or work crazy hours, offer to help them out by walking their dog from time to time. They will appreciate the assistance and their dog will love you for it!
  • Become a dog walker – If you love dogs but aren’t able to have your own at the moment, consider becoming a dog walker. You can advertise your services locally or sign up with a service like Rover to find plenty of dogs in your area that could benefit from your time.
  • Volunteer – Many shelters and rescues welcome volunteers to give their dogs exercise and companionship. Not only do you both get out for a nice walk, but it helps prepare these dogs for their future with a family of their own. Contact area organizations to find out how you can help. There are also organizations like Monster Milers in Philadelphia that pair runners with dogs to add to the fun.

Fall is a wonderful time of year to enjoy the outdoors, so bring along a pup on your next walk or hike to maximize the fun and benefits.