For many dogs across the country, national lockdown has been a blessing. Not only did our pets have us – their owners – at home and ready to provide our undivided attention 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but as a nation we turned to dog walking to keep ourselves busy. For some, however, the daily walks were short-lived as families became more worried about catching the virus and less enthusiastic about keeping fit with no end to lockdown in sight.
With routines thrown out the window, both dogs and humans have gained what we can refer to as ‘pandemic pounds.’ If this applies to you, do not fear. We have put together a few easy methods to reduce your dog’s percentage of body fat, all whilst helping you recover your fitness level.
Build up gradually
In order for the weight loss to be sustainable, it has to be done safely and steadily. Like humans, it will take time for your dog to get used to their new routine. The best weight management strategy is to develop good habits that are applied consistently. Perhaps try creating a monthly plan or making a note of what you’ve done each day to track any progress.
Don’t forget to reward yourself – and your pooch – too! After time, you’ll soon have adopted your new routine as the norm, but it’s important to reflect on how far you’ve both come. As if training yourself to stick to a new routine wasn’t difficult enough, you’ve managed to teach your dog the new rules too! You should feel happy and proud of any developments along the way.
Watch the intake
Plan and measure exactly how much food your dog is eating each day. Most adult dogs should be given 2 meals a day, whilst puppies often require 3 or more feedings. However, this may differ depending on the size of your dog, your dog’s weight, the amount of exercise they participate in and the type of food you’re giving your dog (either wet food or dry food). To work out exactly how much food you should be feeding your pup, check out Pedigree’s feeding guidelines.
If your dog is often hungry around mealtimes, try breaking up meals throughout the day into 3 – 6 portions. Feeding small amounts every 4 – 6 hours will help keep your dog’s insulin levels stable, which reduces their appetite and allows their metabolism to work properly – leading to weight loss. Don’t forget about treats!
Increase daily exercise
Food is key, but no weight loss plan is complete without exercise. The easiest and most common method of exercise to improve your dog’s fitness is daily walks. There are several benefits of exercise, even if your daily exercise starts out as a short walk. Brisk walking can lower your dog’s blood pressure, build a stronger heart and increase the density of their bones.
If you think your pooch is ready for more (and you think you can handle it) try alternating between walking and jogging. According to Fetch, you should wait until your dog is fully grown before attempting regular jogging sessions in order to avoid joint or muscle injuries. Once you feel your dog is ready, try to gradually build up to a 30-minute excursion – and don’t forget to warm up! You should aim to include a 5-minute warm-up and cool-down at the start and end of each session. Also, remember that unlike humans, your pup cannot sweat. During warmer weather, it’s advisable to avoid the hottest times of the day and make sure to slow down or give yourselves a break if you notice your dog lagging behind you.
Regular walks are great as not only do they exercise your pup’s whole body, but they also provide crucial mental stimulation and an opportunity for socialisation. For most breeds, 1 hour a day should be fine, but feel free to consult your vet if you have any concerns.
You’ll feel so much better for doing daily exercise too! When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins which interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain, triggering happy sensations both during and afterwards. Help Guide suggests that regular exercise relieves stress, improves your memory and helps you sleep better. Many fitness enthusiasts even believe that daily exercise makes them feel more energetic throughout the day and boosts their overall mood. A positive mentality will foster a sense of self-worth, making you feel strong, confident and powerful.
Ultimately, it’s down to you. It’s always tough sticking to a new routine, let alone during a global pandemic, so take time each day to remind yourself why you started. Let your dog’s happiness (and endless cuddles) serve as your motivation and the rest will follow.
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