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5 Things to Include in Your Dog's 2021 Fitness Plan

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Overview

Is Fido looking a little plump lately? Whether your canine pal gained weight during the pandemic, or has been a couch puptato for a while now, it’s never too late to help them get in shape. Just like in humans, excess pounds come with various health problems—overweight and obese canines are at higher risk for diseases such as high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and breathing issues. They also have a shorter life expectancy. 

Give your dog a paw in shedding those extra pounds by including these five things in their 2021 fitness plan!


Exercise

This one’s a no-brainer. Exercise will help your pup lose weight and, as a result, lower their risk of the diseases associated with obesity. It also improves metabolism, maintains strong bones and muscles, promotes lymphatic circulation, and supports healthy aging and longevity. Unwanted behaviors such as barking, chewing, and digging can be prevented with regular exercise as well. Make sure to start out slow if your pooch hasn’t been active in a long time, such as with a short walk around the neighborhood, and then gradually increase physical activity as the pounds fall off.


Proper diet

Our canine companions gain weight the same way we do—by not exercising enough and eating too much. Help your furry buddy get trim by feeding them a proper diet approved by your veterinarian. Cut down the treats too, and replace high-fat, high-calorie treats such as cheese and biscuits with green beans, apples, or carrots. Sorry Spot, no more table scraps for you! 

If your pup has a tendency to inhale their meals, consider using a slow feeder. With built-in mazes and obstacles, slow feeder bowls make it harder for your dog to gobble up their food, forcing them to eat slower. This causes them to eat less and feel full sooner as well. Puzzle toys, which require your pooch to work for their food, are another option.


Dog training

Training your mutt might not seem like exercise at first blush, but even practicing basic commands such as “sit,” “come,” and “down” will get them moving. And any amount of activity is better than none, especially for dogs who are just starting their fitness journey. You can also use obedience training as an opportunity to set your pup up for success in other forms of exercise. For example, if hiking with your dog is in your future plans, you can start teaching polite leash walking so that they will have no problem observing proper trail petiquette later on.


Fun and variety

Walking is a great exercise and many dogs love it, but switching things up every now and then is a puptastic way to ensure that both you and your pooch will stay active for a long time. Aside from walking, Fifi can try hiking, swimming, fetch, agility, or scent work. Choose activities based on what your dog likes. For example, some canines love to swim, while others won’t even step in a puddle. It’s also important to take your own preferences into consideration. You are, after all, your dog’s default workout buddy! You’re more likely to stick with something if it’s fun for you and your pup.  

You can even get creative on your mutt’s regular walks. Explore new routes, walk on different surfaces, invite a pal and their dog to join you, or incorporate another activity such as stopping by a dog-friendly restaurant. If possible, have your furry companion walk on concrete parking blocks or logs to make things more interesting and to improve their balance and coordination.


Consistency

Staying consistent is key to ensuring that you and Bella don’t return to square one. So as not to lose the results you’ve achieved thus far, it’s good to have a backup plan for things like inclement weather and unexpected events. Have a list of indoor activities that will keep your pup moving even when it’s too hot, too cold, or raining outside. Some indoor exercises that your dog may enjoy are tug, scavenger hunts, hide-and-seek, and agility activities.


Include these five things in your dog’s 2021 fitness plan and they will likely be trimmer and healthier before the year ends. The specifics of the plan, such as how much to eat and how much exercise is needed each day, will depend on your canine companion’s age and health. It’s always best to consult your veterinarian before starting an exercise or diet program for your four-legged friend. Good luck!


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