How can walking help me and my dog be healthy?
Shelley Simmons, Nutritional and Technical Advisor to OSCAR Pet Foods and Registered Veterinary Nurse (RVN CertSAN CFVHNut), has taken time out of her packed schedule to pen some advice for trundl members and followers about walking as a great means of exercise and wellbeing for us as well as our canine friends.
OSCAR Pet Foods are proud sponsors of our partner Dogs for Autism. Through a partnership with trundl, they will also sponsor Community trundls for the charity in upcoming months and have extended a generous offer to trundl members that is redeemable through the trundl app.
Dog walking is a popular everyday physical activity.
Research shows that people who walk their dogs are likely to walk 30 minutes more each day and more likely to be more physically active than people who don’t own or walk their dogs. Always consult your doctor and vet if you have any concerns about your, or your dog’s health before starting an exercise program.
Benefits for you
Dr Rebecca Rohrer, Clinical Fellow at Bupa UK, says: “Getting enough exercise can reduce your chance of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression, joint and back pain, and some types of cancer. And the benefits to wellbeing are huge too – improving your sleep, maintaining a healthy weight, managing stress and improving your quality of life.
Walking with your dog is a fun way to start fulfilling these health benefits for you and your family and helps to keep your dog healthy too.
Benefits for your dog
Getting the right amount of exercise for your dog can help keep a healthy weight and body condition, improve your dog’s mental wellbeing, joint health, digestive and urinary health. It can also improve socialisation and reduce destructive and boredom behaviours.
How much should I walk my puppy?
There are no specific guidelines for how much you should or shouldn’t exercise your puppy. The younger the puppy the less exercise they need. The type of exercise differs depending on breed, size, weather and age. For example, a Springer Spaniel and a Bulldog may both love to play and exercise, but a Springer Spaniel will have a higher tolerance and need for increased exercise compared to that of a Bulldog. A Bulldog, due to its breed and brachycephalic nature will always find exercise more difficult in warmer weather.
Size is also important, large and giant breeds dogs are more susceptible to orthopaedic disease due to their faster growth rate. Bones in larger breeds take longer for their growth plates to fuse, so exercise intensity must be kept low. Too much strenuous exercise early on can cause longer term issues such as arthritis and hip dysplasia that can impact them for life. Low impact exercise, such as walking, puts far less stress on developing bones and joints than running and jumping. Avoid exercise through growth that includes twisting and turning, jumping up (such as Frisbee games) and high intensity activities.
Smaller breeds will mature and be able to exercise more once they are 12 months, as larger and giant breeds may not complete their growth phase until they are 18-24 months.
Consistency is important for puppies. Regular, consistent exercise is of more benefit for your puppy than a few hours over the weekend and only short bursts throughout the week ,which can be damaging to your puppy’s growth. Walks can be gradually increased as the puppy ages but monitor your puppy carefully for signs of tiredness or lameness. How much you should walk your puppy will depend on your puppy’s age, size, weight and health. Therefore take it nice and steady, build gradually and if you are unsure, ask your vet for further advice.
Exercise and play are important to avoid boredom, frustration and support a healthy growth period, which enables you to keep your puppy at a healthy weight and shape throughout. With studies showing a high proportion of dogs already overweight at 12 months, it is important that your puppy is fed a healthy, complete food that supports growth, and the feeding rate is adjusted as your dog grows along with the exercise.
How much should I walk my Senior Dog?
As our dogs age, their mobility may start to decline. But this doesn’t mean they don’t require any exercise. Maintaining an active lifestyle helps maintain fitness, mobility, maintain muscle mass, encourage a healthy weight and is mentally stimulating. Endorphin release associated with exercise may also actively calm the pet and decrease anxiety.
The intensity and time of the exercise may need to be shortened, and it is important to be aware of the pace of the walk, the weather, and any stiffness or tiring through the walk. It is better to do regular shorter walks to keep the joints moving and prevent them from seizing up and becoming stiff. Longer walks may require a longer recovery and put more pressure on the joints and respiratory system. Consider where you are walking too; softer ground may be more suitable than hard tarmac areas for the paws and joints.
Senior dogs may also have started to develop age-related health issues that may affect how much they can exercise such as joint problems, obesity, reduced sight, deafness or dementia so always speak with your Veterinary practice if you have any concerns.
Top Tips for Walking your Senior Dog
- Keep exercise consistent, shorter and gentle.
- Continue walking even if your dog can only can manage a short walk, it is still essential for their mental and physical wellbeing, for them to get fresh air, to sniff, to stretch, and to socialise.
- Consider the weather before venturing out; if too cold, your dog may need a suitable coat, also avoid walking in high temperatures.
- If the dog is beginning to lose their sight, keep walks familiar to reduce anxiety and confusion. If their hearing is deteriorating then avoid areas where there may be sudden movements or loud noise, or traffic that may startle your dog.
- Take your time and let them walk at their own pace and rest on the walk if required.
- If your dog is exercising less than before, then they may need fewer calories to avoid weight gain.
- Provide warm, soft bedding for the dog to rest on between walks.
- Ensure you are feeding an appropriate senior complete balanced diet for your dog.
General dog walking tips
- Walk only as far as your dog is physically capable of.
- Avoid walking in high temperatures.
- Keep your dog on a lead in public areas.
- Supervise your dog around young children.
- Ensure you have a good supply of poo bags. https://www.oscars.co.uk/product/compostable-poo-bags
- Make sure your dog has a collar with the legal requirements and be microchipped.
- Take fresh water for you and your dog to drink.
Responsible dog ownership
- Ensure your dog is regularly flea and wormed.
- Respect all wildlife and farm animals. Be mindful that it is a criminal offence to be in charge of a dog that worries livestock, so avoiding farm animals completely removes any risk of accidents occurring.
- Ensure you clean up after your dog at all times.
- Dispose of faeces in appropriate places or take home.
- Ensure your dog is fully vaccinated.
- Insure your dog where possible.
Shelley Simmons, Nutritional and Technical Advisor to OSCAR Pet Foods and Registered Veterinary Nurse RVN CertSAN CFVHNut
OSCAR pet foods wish to help and support as many dogs as possible to stay active and healthy and maintain an ideal shape and Body Condition. ‘The Weigh Forward’ program offers advice on the most suitable and appropriate feeding regime to help your dog stay at a healthy weight or achieve a healthy weight if carrying extra kgs!. If you would like any further information about ‘The Weigh Forward’ or how to help your dog achieve a Healthy Body Condition, please contact the FREE Helpline on 0800 195 8000.