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‘Stop dieting’: Your dog may be your perfect training partner

If your New Year’s resolution is to get fit, your dog may be your perfect training partner

January is the month of ambitious resolutions – and getting fit and losing weight tend to top the list. But how many people manage to maintain their exercise goals? Gyms are filled with enthusiastic people at the start of the month, but the numbers soon start to dwindle.

All is not lost, however. If you own a dog, your perfect fitness coach and motivator is right there at home with you – and, crucially, they will benefit, too.

Dogs make excellent exercise partners. But they also need your support. Canine obesity is the number one concern for vets. The health risks associated with obesity are similar for both people and dogs, and overweight owners are more likely to own overweight dogs.

Dog walking is a great way to start a new fitness regime and has been shown to have a positive impact on the physical and mental health of both pets and their owners. Dogs that walk less are more likely to be overweight and have behavioural issues, so exercising with your dog may benefit you both in the long term.

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Winter is also the perfect season for your four legged friend to begin a new sport or training plan. Freezing weather and darkness may not appeal to you, but it could be safer for your dog to get fit in the colder months.

Dogs can struggle to exercise in the summer months as, unlike us, they can’t sweat. Instead, they rely largely on panting to cool down when temperatures start to increase. Unfit dogs are more likely to overheatwhile exercising which can lead to heatstroke, and dogs are more likely to die from heatstroke if they are obese.

Male dogs may also be more likely to develop heatstroke as they get hotter than female dogs while exercising, and dogs with dark-coloured coats also appear to get hotter when exercising. Consequently, winter is the ideal time to get your dog’s blood pumping – especially if your pet’s a slightly rotund, dark-coloured male.

So how to get going? Running with your dog is a good way to get out and about and increase activity levels. But just as you’d speak to your doctor before embarking on a new fitness phase, get advice from your vet on how much your dog can do. If your dog suffers from a breathing disorder, for example, they will be more likely to overheat, and may be unsuited to more vigorous forms of exercise. Likewise, younger dogsmay not be able to take part in more energetic sports and too much exercise could lead to problems, such as joint disease, in later life.

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