In today’s hustle and bustle world, it’s easy to forget about exercise for you and your pet, especially as you speed off to work and Fido is still lying on the couch. Some pet parents make the mistake of assuming if a dog has access to a fenced-in backyard, he or she is getting enough exercise. But unless Sparky is running laps on his own back there, that just isn’t the case.Stacy Busch-Heisserer and Howie the cat.(Laura Simon)[Click to enlarge]Dogs were born and bred to have jobs. While some of them are on earth to be couch potatoes (i.e., your favorite 5-pound Yorkie or 200-pound St. Bernard), the majority of breeds like to be active. It’s your responsibility as a pet owner to help make that happen. They can’t always do it on their own.Walking with your dog is good for both of you, but do you know just how good?The physical act of walking a dog could help a large portion of the U.S. population increase their physical activity, as well as that of their dogs, according a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information. There are approximately 65 million dogs in U.S. households; 39 percent of U.S. households have at least one dog and 35 percent have two or more, according to the study. An estimated 25 to 40 percent of dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese. Inactivity is a significant risk factor for obesity in studies of dogs and cats, and sedentary pet behavior and owner lifestyle may contribute to the development of canine and feline obesity.Cape Girardeau’s dog walking club, the Cape Canine Cruisers, is one way to incorporate exercise into your weekend. The club meets at 10 a.m. on Saturdays outside Busch Pet Products, and the group walks the trail. You are free to walk as much or as little as you like. The goal is to get dogs and dog-lovers together and to be active.It’s also a wonderful way to socialize your dog and enjoy the outdoors. It’s free and it’s fun. You don’t need much to get started, either. The things you need are basics, and as a pet owner, you should already have them at home:* A good leash is a must, but leave the Flexi-type leads at home. They are really best for leisurely sniff-time at the park. Get yourself a good 4- to 6-foot nylon or leather leash with a comfortable handle. A collar, harness or head collar is also a must. Some dogs walk better on a collar, some in a harness. If your dog is a puller, consider the Gentle Leader, a head collar that applies gentle pressure to the nose. Even the hardest puller will become an experienced walker in a head collar!* Waste bags. Invariably, Snoopy will decide your neighbor’s yard or the walking trail looks like a good place to do his business. It won’t matter that he just did it before you left the house. Be prepared and be respectful of others, and clean up that poop!* H20, baby! Exercise not only burns calories, but it depletes water from your and your dog’s bodies, so make sure you each have plenty of water and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!* No-see-um spray for both of you. Being outdoors means lots of opportunities for bug bites, so be prepared by having the appropriate pest sprays handy. Spray down before you head off on your excursion, and you should be good. Make sure what you are using on your dog is safe and won’t burn the skin or eyes. When you are finished with your walk, take time for a tick-check for both of you — you’ll be happy you did.* SPF for both of you. I can’t make you wear sunscreen, but if you have a dog that has a thin coat or lots of pink skin, please do him a favor and get him some pet-specific sunscreen. Pets can get skin cancer, too!* Finally, and more important to your pooch, don’t forget the treats! Having treats available can make or break experiences such as meeting new people or dogs, and solidifying the walking experience as a whole.It doesn’t take a lot of training or experience to get into the exercise groove. It just takes time — time you should be spending with your dog, anyway. Walking with your dog will not only improve your own health and well-being; it will stimulate your pooch and leave him happy and satisfied. It also can help eliminate some nagging behavioral issues he might have.Have you heard the saying, “A tired dog is a good dog?” Take Fido for a walk sometime and you’ll get it!
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