Whether you’ve packed on a few extra pounds over winter or you’ve spent your entire adult life battling to stay healthy, losing weight can be a daunting challenge. Sometimes the whole situation can be completely overwhelming, and the fear of failure leads many of us to avoid diets and exercise altogether!
But if you want to lose weight and you’re looking for some extra motivation and inspiration, there’s one very special friend you can call on for help — your dog! Our canine companions can provide the support and encouragement we need to shed the excess weight and get back into that favorite pair of jeans that no longer fit. Read on to find out how.
How Dogs Help You Lose Weight
Dogs have an amazing array of special talents and skills, but helping people lose weight? Really?
Absolutely! You can add "paw-some exercise buddy" to your pet's list of attributes, and there are plenty of simple reasons why dogs are grrr-eat at helping you trim down.
First of all, exercising with dogs is fun. Why would you want to spend half an hour slogging away on a treadmill when you could be out and about exploring the local neighborhood with your dog? Getting active with your dog lets you spend heaps of quality time with your furry friend, and you may even enjoy yourself so much that you forget you’re exercising.
Also, dogs need to stay active. Ensuring that your dog gets adequate regular exercise is a crucial task for every responsible pet owner. And if your pooch needs to get up and get moving, that’s the paw-fect excuse for you to work up a sweat at the same time.
Dogs even provide incidental exercise. Does your pet love being chased around the backyard, playing tug of war, or just dragging you this way and that to explore every new smell, sight, and sound? If so, he’s helping you raise your heart rate without even trying to exercise.
Finally, dogs are wonderful motivators. We all have those days when getting any form of exercise seems like the hardest thing in the world. They usually happen in winter when the weather is miserable, but there’s nothing like your four-legged workout buddy to provide the motivation and encouragement you need to get out and about. If the mere mention of the word “walk” sends your dog into a frenzy of tail-wagging excitement, you’ll know exactly what we mean!
- Jumping up
- Wag tail
- They tolerate running, hiking and playing well
- They get into trouble just to get your attention
- They continuously interrupt what you are doing
History of Dogs Helping People Lose Weight
In fact, some owners have even met their pooches during physical activities. One runner, who competes in ultra-marathons, was united with his canine during a 250 km trek through the Gobi Desert! It was while running this race that he was joined by a small dog who would not leave his side.
They took turns helping each other, with the little pooch urging him to quicken his pace throughout the 126 km that they ran together. He began to take care of her as well, sharing his sustenance with her and carrying her over rough terrain.
There are other reports of dogs joining in marathons on their own accord, after spotting a group of running humans and wanting in on the fun! One otherwise lazy Bloodhound named Ludivine even went on to finish a marathon in seventh place!
With all of these accounts of pooches participating in exercise at their own free will, it is no surprise that your barky buddy could be the motivation you need to get moving!
Science Behind Dogs Helping People Lose Weight
There are myriad studies that outline the significant benefits dogs can offer to people trying to lose weight. Here are a few of the highlights:
* A 2017 study from the University of Lincoln, in the United Kingdom, revealed that dog owners on average walked 22 minutes more per day than non-dog owners.
* A 2011 study by researchers at Michigan State University found that dog walkers are 34% more likely to fit in 150 minutes of walking per week than non-dog owners.
* A 2011 study from the University of Virginia showed that teenagers from dog-owning families get about 15 more minutes a week of moderate to vigorous physical activity than teens who don’t own pets.
It’s also worth pointing out that pet ownership has significant benefits for mental health. Studies have shown that our canine companions can help reduce stress, combat depression and anxiety, and even increase our social connectedness. And while your state of mind may not directly influence weight loss, being in the right headspace to get active, stick to your diet, and deal with any potential setbacks along the way can only be a good thing.
Training Your Dog to Exercise With You
If you and your dog love nothing better than lazing around on the couch together, it might take a little while for both of you to get into the habit of working out. But if you ask your veterinarian for help, he or she will be able to offer the advice you need to put together an exercise plan that’s paw-fect for your pet.
Establishing a routine is an important place to start. Dogs love routine and by incorporating regular workouts into your daily schedule, for example, a morning walk or an afternoon swim at the beach, your pet will soon come to anticipate and enjoy those regular outings.
Walking is an ideal way for you and your pet to start shedding those excess pounds. It allows you to start slowly and build up to a quicker pace while providing the added benefits of fresh air, mental stimulation for your dog, and one-on-one time for you and your pet.
Finally, remember to keep it fun! There are so many ways other than a walk to give your pooch the exercise he needs, so why not try playing a fetching game, going hiking, or even setting up an exercise circuit in your local park? Losing weight doesn’t have to be a chore, so get creative and mix things up whenever you can.
Dogs are a wonderful weapon in the fight against weight loss, so why not get out and get active with your furry friend? Not only will you feel better about yourself and have so much more energy, but you’ll get to spend a whole lot of quality time with your dog along the way.
Staying Safe When Exercising With Your Dog
Check with your veterinarian. Before starting any exercise regime, ask your veterinarian whether there are any activities your dog should avoid. This will ensure that you end up with an exercise program suited to your pet’s needs.
Start slowly. You wouldn’t run a marathon without any training under your belt, so don’t ask too much of your dog too soon. By starting slowly and building up to more intense workouts, you’ll give your pooch the best chance of success.
Don’t force it. If your dog is showing any signs of slowing down, being in pain, or struggling to keep up, stop at once. All your dog wants to do is please you, so don’t force Fido to push himself too hard.