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Fitness With Fido
by Charlotte Mielziner

Truly, dogs are the original adventure animal. Even if you are just going out to the mailbox they think it’s great to tag along. Clip on the lead for a walk and they happily bounce out of the door, tails wagging and noses scanning for new information. They probably have their own theme song for bye-byes.

Research by the University of Missouri and a Canadian study by the University of Victoria have both concluded that people who hoof it with a woofer walk longer, more often and faster than those without a canine partner. This translates to increased weight loss, improved cardiovascular and muscular fitness and less depression. In the University of Missouri study, participants lost an average of fourteen pounds over the course of one year.

Walking the dog is a win-win for all. People who walk their dogs regularly report fewer canine behavior problems. Particularly destructive issues such as separation anxiety and chewing seem to disappear or are reduced. For dogs, with their increased abilities to smell individual scents, a walk is mentally stimulating as well as an energy release.

So, if Fido is beginning to resemble a furry exercise machine that drools, here are five tips to help you get started walking with your dog.

1. Unless you and your dog are already active, start off slowly. Build your own and your dog’s cardiovascular and muscular health without stressing your joints.
2. Remember asphalt, concrete, gravel and even road salt can be hard on your dog’s paws. Try to walk him on dirt paths or grass as much as possible.
3. Prepare appropriately in weather extremes. Some breeds do not tolerate heat or cold well. A jacket or sweater in cold weather will help smooth coated breeds like Boxers or Miniature Pinschers stay warm. During hot weather, watch your dog and be aware of signs of overheating, tender paws or exhaustion. Walk in the early morning and take it easy, give more water breaks and stick to the shade.
4. Always be aware of your surroundings. Keep an eye out for broken glass or metal shards on the paths. Do not allow your dog to drink from puddles on the way. Standing water can collect poisonous antifreeze or lawn chemicals.
5. Be respectful of the neighbor’s yards and carry a poop-bag to scoop up any “yard muffins” your dog may leave behind.

Whether you are walking with your dog to help control your weight, blood sugar or just get out of the house, perhaps man’s best friend is also man’s best medicine.

Published: Oct 29,2008 10:15
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