Sometimes I wish I were my dog. It's not that I want to laze around all day or introduce sniffing as an acceptable greeting; I want someone to regulate what I eat. My dog boasts a perfect figure, even at 14 years old. She hasn't maintained her weight because she walks for hours on a treadmill or turns her nose up at cookies. She's an ideal weight because I monitor what she eats and make sure she gets consistent exercise. But this isn't the case for all dogs. So the next time you feel like skipping a walk with your pooch, consider this:
1. Dogs are packing on pounds, just like us.
As humans become more sedentary and more accustomed to bigger portions -- and pack on more pounds -- so do our pets. According to Fitness Unleashed: A Dog and Owner's Guide to Losing Weight and Gaining Health Together (Random House Canada, 2006) by Dr. Marty Becker and Dr. Robert Kushner: “As both species become more and more out of shape, we experience almost identical health complications of overweight and obesity, including heart disease, diabetes, joint ailments and an increased risk of cancer.”
2. Provide a healthy lifestyle
As the humans, we have a responsibility to provide our pets with a healthy lifestyle, which includes 15 to 20 minutes of physical activity three times a day. Playing fetch is one option, but enjoying a walk together is even better -- for both of you.
3. The ultimate exercise partner
A dog will never turn down a walk, no matter the weather or time of day. “He will, in fact, jump, whine, bark, wiggle, dance, engage the tail-helicopter rotor, and do whatever is necessary to drag your butt off the couch and out the door when it's time for his scheduled walk,” write Becker and Kushner.
Photo: Writer Laurie Mckenzie and her dog, Perri
Photography by Deborah Samuel
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4. See the world through puppy-dog eyes
The outdoors is the perfect classroom to learn from our dogs. Why not take their lead? They can teach us how to:
• Greet the morning with exuberance and cheer.
• Experience the benefits of marching away stress at the end of the day.
• Be curious about surroundings.
• Get to know neighbourhood personalities -- both two- and four-legged.
5. Get out of the gym and on to the street
I'm not so keen on exercising at the gym, but I never begrudge a walk, not even when I'm sick or tired or grumpy.
• Add spurts of jogging to your walk to burn up to twice as many calories per minute.
• Head to a conservation park on the weekend to challenge different muscle groups, which raises your heart rate and burns more calories.
Like most dog owners, I would do anything to please my dog. Maintaining her health -- and mine -- is the least I can do to repay her perpetual loyalty and limitless affection. Walking my dog is as good for her as it is for me.
Photo: Writer Laurie Mackenzie and her dog, Perri
Photography by Deborah Samuel
Laurie Mackenzie is a senior editor at Canadian Living Magazine.
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