While we don’t really reserve showing our pets affection and care for just one day, with Valentine’s Day coming up soon, we’re thinking a lot more about how to care for others and possibly ourselves as well.
There’s nothing better than going out for a stroll with our dogs. Staying active with our furry friends is a great way of showing affection for our pups by keeping them healthy. And just by being there next to us, our dogs are keeping us healthy in turn.
Even though it’s pretty chilly outside in many areas this time of year, it’s never a bad time to think about mobility and health for our pets and for ourselves too. Let’s highlight some everyday things we can do and good habits we can develop to keep our furry friends mobile and active.
What Does Healthy Activity Do for Our Dogs?
Regular mobility is very important. It keeps the joints from getting stiff and helps to maintain good muscle tone.
Most dogs are built for some degree of activity and their bodies require a certain amount of activity every day to maintain good health.
Why is Mobility a Great Avenue for Mutual Affection?
Exercise, whether it’s a short 15 minute walk, 3 mile run, a hike, or playing a game of fetch, is very enjoyable for many dogs. Some active dog breeds, like those intended for herding, hunting, or retrieving are physically built to be more active and athletic, making these activities naturally enjoyable and fulfilling for them.
Many dogs also desire companionship and any time you can bring together both an exercise activity and companionship by doing those things together, this helps support good mental and behavioral health and further the bond you share.
The benefits of exercise and companionship aren’t just for our dogs because they benefit us too. Any relationship with a pet should be a two way street with love, affection, and support going both ways. It’s a mutual bond.
By keeping our dogs active, they keep us active, and the health benefits for both of us including physical, mental, and behavioral benefits, are vast.
Regular exercise helps us to lose excess weight and maintain a stable weight, improves cardiovascular health, and supports mental health through the release of endorphins which aid in improving our mood and happiness.
Going out for just a 15 minute walk with your dog can make you both healthier and happier!
When Food is Love. And When It Isn’t.
There’s almost no limitation on how much activity you can do with your dog as long as you both work up to more intense or longer durations of activity and don’t exceed what either of you can safely do.
But one of the other most popular ways of showing affection to our pups does have limitations and there are some important things to think about.
Besides bonding time with play and outdoor activities, many pet parents associate feeding food with showing affection. After all, dogs love food and treats, and a dog who gets all of their favorite yummy food is seen as a happy pup. And of course, if your dog looks happy, then you’re happy too.
But this happiness is bound to be short-lived because the practice of just refilling the bowl or giving extra treats whenever your dog wants may provide some immediate, short-term happiness but it can have long-term consequences. And these consequences are especially bad for mobility.
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) , over 50% of dogs are considered overweight or obese. Changes in society’s perception of a dog’s ideal body condition appearance and a poor understanding of calorie needs are certainly responsible, but an even bigger factor is the “food is love” factor.
After all, you might know that your dog is overweight and you may also know exactly how much your dog needs to eat every day to maintain or lose weight, but all of this best knowledge and planning is futile against those big puppy dog eyes, staring up at you next to an empty bowl.
To be honest, as much as veterinarians strive to counsel pet parents on not giving in and refilling the bowl or just giving a “few” extra treats, we’re admittedly not entirely immune to the wiles of those puppy dog eyes. Dogs certainly know the ways to our hearts.
While giving in once in a while may not hurt, doing it regularly is a problem for sure. It ends up not truly being love, but giving into a habit that leads to destructive changes to the body that worsen over time and can impact the types of activities you’re able to do with your dog in the long run.
Dogs that are overweight or obese are known to be predisposed to more health problems than dogs that remain at an ideal weight. Additional fat in the body leads to chronic inflammation which can predispose to disease. The added weight puts more strain on joints, leading to arthritis developing earlier and becoming more severe, hindering mobility.
Dogs who are overweight and obese have a hard time getting around. Without exercise, all those benefits for cardio health and mental health don’t just disappear for your pup, they dwindle for you too. If that bonding time with your dog is cut short, you’re less likely to get out and exercise yourself without your furry partner at your side.
Tips for Keeping Your Dog Lean, Mobile, Healthy, and Happy
The new year is barely under way and there’s still time to get some resolutions in order. Consider these five tips as part of a plan to further the loving bond with your pup through regular exercise and healthy feeding choices.
- Feed diets meeting AAFCO nutrient requirements. An AAFCO statement can be found near the ingredients on food packaging. This helps ensure your dog is eating a diet that meets nutritional needs for their life stage.
- Always know what your dog’s ideal weight and calorie needs are. You can start by using this chart for dog and cat daily caloric needs as well as ideal weight ranges for popular US dog breeds and the AKC top 100 dog breeds provided by APOP.
- Keep treats to 10% of the diet per day. For an average 50 lb dog, that’s only about 80 calories, the equivalent of about two Milkbones.
- Aim for 30 minutes of exercise and activity per day. This can be broken up into two or three separate exercise events.
- If you have further questions about assessing your dog’s weight, exercise routine, daily calorie needs, and how to make sure that daily food intake doesn’t exceed those needs, make sure to speak with your veterinarian.
Treats Can Still Be a Sign of Love
Treats don’t have to be cut out of a dog’s diet entirely. In fact, they’re an important part of bonding with our pets. They are a joy to provide our pups and of course our pups love them!
But since they can only be such a small percentage of the daily diet, why not make the most of your pup’s treats by choosing a healthy joint supplement. Keep your pup happy with “food love” while still investing in your dog’s healthy mobility every day.
The best joint supplements for dogs bear the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) Quality Seal. The NASC Quality Seal is granted only to companies, like Pet Honesty, that voluntarily follow stringent labeling guidelines to ensure quality.
Check in With Your Vet
Even if exercising with your dog is keeping you fit and healthy, we all need at least an annual physical to help safeguard our health and your dog needs one too! Your vet can detect health changes you’re not aware of and discuss health concerns to be thinking about as your pup gets older. Some of the most important topics vets discuss with pet parents include diet and exercise.
Showing the Love
Love isn’t always doing what’s easy but doing what’s best for another. Show your dog some love by keeping them active but “exercise” some modesty with feeding and treats. The health benefits are significant over the long-term and your dog will have many more opportunities to share their own love for you as a constant companion to keep you fit and healthy too, as well as in their own special way.