Work out with a canine companion

Kathy Hansen

This past Thursday on our way to a church softball game, Nikki and I, along with our teammates Sarah and Cassie, rescued six puppies abandoned on the side of the road. We took the puppies to the game with us and they and the fans had a ball. By the time the game was over, half of them had homes and Nikki and I temporarily grabbed the other three. This week they are residing in the Paws and Claws shelter in St. Pauls waiting on their permanent home.

Today as I finished my morning run, I saw tons of my neighbors out getting some exercise with their dogs. In honor of the orphan puppies, my dog Tia and dogs everywhere, let’s discuss the merits of exercising with your dog.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are approximately 77.5 million owned dogs in the United States. That is a bunch of dogs looking for a human workout partner. Dogs, like people, come in all sizes, shapes and models and one thing is for certain: Both need to exercise.

Humans and canines were designed to be in constant motion. From early history, dogs and humans tracked down their next meal on foot. Fast forward to the present and both of us need only to walk as far as the refrigerator or the nearest dog bowl to eat.

There are strong parallels between why human and dog physical activity is limited. For us it is cars, desks and computers while for dogs it is kennels, crates and too much time cooped up indoors. Obesity, diabetes, joint pain, feelings of stress and other chronic problems also affect people and dogs in similar ways. Therefore, exercising together can benefit the both of you. Let’s look at some of the perks of pounding the pavement with your pooch:

— Maintaining healthy body weight: Lots of calories are burned for you and your dog during a brisk walk or jog. Just 30 minutes a day can make a difference for the both of you.

— Saving time: Exercising with your pet is a huge time saver. Getting them out and moving takes care of their toileting needs, and is a great time to work on obedience training. For you it is a chance to get in that much needed walk or run.

— Stress management: Exercise will benefit the both of you on an emotional level. The endorphins that are released from exercise can elevate the mood of both you and your pooch. According the experts, dogs that chew, tip the garbage and perform other random acts of vandalism in your home do so because of pent-up energy, not because they are getting back at you for leaving them alone.

— Safety in numbers: If you are jogging or walking, it is much safer to have a big or even a small protective dog with you if you are exercising alone. Just make sure to keep him on a leash so he does not run off and get the both of you in trouble.

Keep in mind that the breed of your dog may affect your workout. Short-legged dogs, like a Dachshund or Pekingese, will not last as long as a larger breed. If your furry friend is vertically challenged, you can squeeze in some strength training by carrying him back home.

Exercising with your dog is fun and beneficial to your health. Make sure to pick up after your pooch, watch out for cars and, most of all, enjoy the company.