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Dogs get healthier when people get fit

By Denise Mann HealthDay Reporter

(Health day)

THURSDAY, Aug. 25, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Writer Jenny Block and her chiweenie, Aurora, are enjoying good health.

“We walk at least 1 mile and up to 4 miles early in the morning, before it gets too hot,” the Houston-based author said.

She needs it and I need it, so it works great,” said Block, who has lost several pounds and become much more toned since adopting Aurora in March 2020. “I love having company and having her excited to go I’m excited about that too!”

Getting fit with Fido (or Aurora, as the case may be) is a win-win, according to a new Canadian study. While previous research has shown that dog owners tend to exercise more than people without dogs, the new study shows that dogs with more active owners also exercise more.

“The type of exercise you do also predicts your dog’s exercise routine,” said study author Sydney Banton, a doctoral student at the University of Guelph in Ontario. “Any amount of vigorous exercise in the owner’s exercise routine increased the proportion of dogs that also engaged in vigorous exercise.”

For the study, researchers analyzed the results of a survey of nearly 3,300 dog owners in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. The survey looked at the diets and exercise routines of owners and dogs, along with the owner’s perception of their dog’s weight.

The bottom line? Dogs got more exercise if their owners spent more time exercising. The most active owners were also more likely to perceive their dog as having an ideal body weight, the survey showed.

Vigorous exercise for the dogs included running, playing catch, or swimming, while moderate exercise was defined as walking, hiking, or visiting the dog park.

People who got no more than 15 minutes of vigorous exercise a week were less likely to report that their dog engages in vigorous exercise, the study showed.

Dog owners who exercised moderately for more than five days a week were more likely to exercise their dogs for 60 minutes to 90 minutes or more a day, the study showed.

Owners of dogs 5 years and older were less likely to perceive their dog as having an ideal body weight if they had been told their dog was overweight, attempted to control their dog’s weight by limiting food intake, or reported giving treats every day.

Many owners may try to control their dogs’ body weight through diet, but not exercise, Banton said.

“We encourage dog owners to include exercise as part of their dog’s daily routine,” he said. “If the dog is overweight, starting with smaller bouts of less intense exercise, such as walking around the block, is a great way to gradually incorporate exercise into your dog’s routine.”

The study appears in the August 24 issue of PLUS ONE.

Exercising with a pet can be super motivating, said veterinarian Dr. Danielle Clem, hospital director for the San Diego Humane Society.

“In addition to the positive cardiovascular benefits, exercise offers important mental wellness for our pets and can also help with overall behavior,” she said.

Keeping your dog at a healthy weight involves diet and exercise. Work with your veterinarian to develop a comprehensive approach to obesity.

“It’s important to make time for regular checkups to rule out underlying causes of weight gain and monitor weight fluctuations over time,” Clem said. “Your vet can best guide you toward a proper nutritional plan and give you the green light to safely work on an exercise routine that best suits your dog’s needs and abilities.”

Chris Gagliardi is a personal trainer in El Cajon, California, and a spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise. He also has a golden retriever and a miniature schnauzer, and tries to include them in his training whenever and wherever he can.

Make sure you have the right gear, Gagliardi recommended. “A harness or leash that connects to the waist may be better than a collar if you’re going for a run with your dog,” he said. Let them do their business before the race.

However, “if you and your dog aren’t that physically active, take it easy and work together not to overdo it,” Gagliardi added.

Not all pets are designed for vigorous exercise, he noted. His golden retriever loves to go for walks and runs, but his miniature schnauzer is more of a guard dog who prefers to roam and bark at other dogs.

“Know how your dog behaves with others, as this could be a barrier [to exercising in public]Gagliardi noted.

SOURCES: Jenny Block, writer, Houston; Sydney Banton, doctoral student, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada; Danielle Clem, DVM, hospital director, San Diego Humane Society; Chris Gagliardi, personal trainer and spokesperson, American Council on Exercise, El Cajon, Calif.; PLUS ONEAugust 24, 2022

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