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Natural Awakenings Boston

Canine Fitness Companions

May 28, 2014 02:19PM ● By Mike Harb

It is common for people that want to become healthier to get a dog to motivate them to be more active. Without its owner leading the way, a dog is confined to the home with little space or means for exercise. Most people are more likely to commit to an act when it benefits others, rather than just themselves, so new owners make it a top priority to take their dog for its daily walk because their dog relies on them for exercise.

In theory, dogs are a valid motivator for their owners to exercise more. Unfortunately, reality sets in, even for those who begin with the best of intentions. After a few months of top priority daily walks, the weather gets cold; work gets busy; social and family obligations take precedence. Household chores, cooking, cleaning and caring for kids reduce the number of long walks, and gradually they are replaced entirely with, “Come on Fido. Quickly! Do your business. Mommy is running late for work.”

As a result, the exact opposite of the intended goal is achieved. The dog is now part of the problem, rather than the solution. In addition to less regular, vigorous exercise for the owner, the dog also becomes lazy and overweight. Veterinarians everywhere are seeing this unfortunate growing trend. Dr. Catherine Cole of the Arlington Animal Clinic, in Arlington, states, “In 2006, the American Society of Nutrition published a paper stating that 40 percent of the canine population was overweight or obese. The most recent research shows that the numbers in the U.S. have increased to 54 percent. This increase is very alarming.”

“My vet told me that my dog was overweight,” says Carla Scotto, an Arlington resident and nutritionist, “so I put her on a diet and started running with her. Ashley lost 20 pounds, she doesn’t get sick anymore, and she has her energy back. Now, I have to find ways to burn off her energy and it really does force me to stay active.”

Our modern lifestyles often make us lazy and inactive, and we sometimes drag our dogs down with us into obesity. Just like humans, dogs need to be active in order to lead healthy and happy lives. It’s time to get off the couch, get our dogs out of the crate and take them for walks. Even better, take them for a run or go on a hike. Play Frisbee or swim together. With so many dog-friendly activities available, there are no more excuses.

Mike Harb is a fitness trainer and owner of Fit Doggie and Me, a workout program for people to do with their dogs. For more information about the program or for private sessions, call 617-335-4903, email [email protected] or visit FitDoggieAndMe.com.

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