Excerpt from Healthy Dog: The Ultimate Fitness Guide for You and Your Dog
You and your dog were made for walking. The simple act of putting one foot (or paw) in front of the other can burn off calories and tone muscles without jarring the joints and bones. You both will improve your cardiovascular health and lose the waddle from your walk. Ensure that walk time is safe and fun for the both of you by paying attention to the weather and your surroundings.
Let’s start first with a popular walking surface, the sidewalk. Remember that we wear soled shoes or sneakers, but our dogs go barefoot. On warm sunny days, test the sidewalk temperature before your dog steps foot on the concrete or asphalt surface. Place your palm on the sidewalk to test its heat intensity. If it’s too warm to your touch, steer your dog toward grassy surfaces, or time your walks in the early morning or in the evening to protect your dog’s footpads.
On wintry days, avoid sidewalks treated with salt, magnesium, or calcium chloride. These ice-melting chemicals can irritate your dog’s feet and cause an upset stomach if ingested. If you fit your dog with booties (and if he tolerates them), make sure they fit snugly but not tight enough to cut off circulation. Once you return home, wipe off your dog’s feet with a damp towel. And for your sidewalk and driveway, consider using a nontoxic, pet-friendly ice melter.
No matter the weather, always keep your eyes open for vehicles, people, dogs, and other possible distractions on your route. When you spot potential trouble or temptation, switch directions or put your dog into a sit command to avoid any confrontations.
Do you walk the dog or does your dog walk you? If you have a four-legged leash-tugger or one who likes to zip around and get you all tangled in the leash, there’s a simple solution: invest in a head halter, a Gentle Leader, Halti, or Softee. These collars are more effective and humane than choke or pinch collars and they allow you to control your dog’s head, which, in turn, controls his body direction. These collars have special fitting requirements, so pay close attention at the pet store when you purchase one. During walks, reward your dog whenever there is slack in the leash; refuse to continue the walk when he starts to pull.
Keep your dog’s attention by making yourself a bigger prize in his eyes than squirrels, cats, or overflowing trash cans. How? Stash a few yummy treats or your dog’s favorite toy in your jacket before you head out the door. Periodically during your walk, call your dog by name and as soon as he turns to look at you, reward him with a treat or a quick game of fetch. Your dog will soon learn that it is more rewarding to pay attention to you than to that cat or soda can. He will also learn who’s in charge.
The more you walk and the faster the pace, the more weight you can take off for good.
So if you weigh 160 pounds and walk just one hour per week at 3 mph (and all other activities remain constant), you could burn nearly 5 pounds in one year. The equation is: 318 calories x 52 weeks = 16,536 calories divided by 3,500 (number of calories per pound) = 4.7 pounds.