Beating Obesity in Dogs With Exercise

In some countries, like the US, there is a rise in the number of dogs that are obese or overweight. As health problems regarding weight have become more prevalent in humans, it is no surprise that our dogs are falling victim to the same issues. As a matter of fact, ‘overweight’ is becoming one of the most common health issues and diagnoses in dogs today.

A dog being overweight or obese can lead to health issues with their joints, liver and heart, potentially shortening their life span.

Most dogs love to eat, so it is pretty easy to see how they can pack on the pounds quickly. We want to show our dogs love too, so what is more rewarding than a tasty snack?? Not much honestly. Most dogs will go through their entire repertoire of tricks just for one treat. Giving them snacks and human food is super fun and they love it, but we are only causing a future detriment to their health as they gain in weight and age.

Why Does My Dog Need Exercise? 

There are a lot of reasons why exercise is good for your dog. We could benefit from it too, of course, so why not. Exercise is crucial to happy joints and an overall healthier body. Because dogs don’t live for nearly as long as we do, we don’t need to shorten their life span any further than it already is. Just because Charlie likes to eat half of your McDonalds food, doesn’t mean that he should.

Heart and joint benefits

Exercise encourages more joint mobility and stronger muscles, ligaments, and tendons. While a healthy and active dog is still not exempt from injuring itself, an overweight and out-of-shape dog is much more likely to get hurt doing minimal activity.

Not only is exercise good for their joints and bones but it is also majorly beneficial to the respiratory tract. Staying active promotes a healthier heart and lungs and could potentially prevent issues like cardiomyopathies and heart failure later in life. You will also notice an overweight dog panting almost constantly, this is because of the added pressure on the chest from fat but also because they have to work that much harder to just move around and do regular activities.

Dog having fun chasing ducks

Not just good for the body, but also the brain!

The brain really needs a lot of stimulation. And dogs that sit around all day and don’t get enough activity or exercise can get a little stir crazy. Exercise can benefit your dog’s overall mental health by getting them outside for play and socialization.

These moments are crucial. Throwing the ball around or running with them can go a long way in helping with daily anxiety, hyperactivity, or boredom-induced self-trauma. Yes, that happens. Some dogs will become so bored that they destroy furniture, cages and even themselves attempting to find something to entertain them.

If you think about it, you can almost look at the dog like a child. The more they sit inside and are cooped up with minimal activity or mental stimulation, they tend to become destructive and emotionally upset.

How Do I Exercise My Dog?

If the weather permits, go outside! The world is full of exciting smells, places, and creatures to see and experience. Walking with them on a leash allows for a controlled exercise environment but means that they most likely can’t run very far. This can be good for some reactive dogs but most of them would benefit more from being off-leash.

Walking dog

On-leash walks

Going on a walk for a mile or two a day, assuming the weather and pet’s age and condition allows for this distance, is a great place to start. It’s a slow way to incorporate a low-impact type of exercise. As they lose weight and get more used to the activity, you can bump it up to a little more intense of a workout.

Off-leash walks

These times should be well controlled and monitored. Some dogs are good enough that they can be trusted with other dogs or animals and not be on a leash. This honestly takes a rare kind of dog, and to be frank, it doesn’t mean that you can trust the other dogs that are around even if you know yours is a good boy or girl. Be aware at all times, especially at off-leash dog parks.

Allowing your dog time off the leash could be hugely beneficial for your pet’s exercise regimen. They love the freedom of running and exploring at their own pace. You can encourage chasing a ball or frisbee or just run with them through the yard. Playing ‘chase’ or ‘hide and seek’ with your dog can be really fun and entertaining sometimes!

Dog swimming


This activity is one that is very hit or miss as far as what certain dogs are comfortable with. Some are completely freaked out by water and would rather just play in the yard, but there are other doggos that adore the water. Swimming can be another huge benefit for quickly shedding extra pounds while also being easy and safe for their aging and sore joints.

As a matter of fact, underwater treadmills are a popular form of therapy and rehabilitation in dogs that have orthopedic injuries or debilitating arthritis. Some vets recommend doing underwater treadmill therapy for the act of simply losing weight. Cats have even taken to the treadmill for weight loss!

Playing frisby with dog

Sports or agility

Putting your dog into some kind of organized activity or sport like agility or competitive frisbee can be a lot of fun, but they are at a higher risk of injury, especially if they are not ready for that level of exercise.

Agility is an excellent resource for activity and brain stimulation. Some dogs in the working or herding breed groups benefit the most from sports.

Clearly, running and chasing after things is a great way for them to lose weight, but you would want to be careful that they didn’t suffer an injury to their back or a limb because they weren’t ready for that intense of an activity.

Is It Possible To Over-Exercise My Dog?

YES. It is absolutely possible to go too hard, and your dog is down for the count for a day or two. In some cases, the owner is so worried about a limp or a lack of activity that they bring their dogs to the veterinarian to have them looked over. Most of the time all they need is rest or some anti-inflammatories and they are back at it by the next week.

Should I Put My Dog on a Low-Calorie Diet to Help Them Lose Weight?

If that is what is recommended by your veterinarian, then yes. Always consult with their vet prior to starting them on a new diet. Sometimes you can find a low-calorie food that works at the pet store, but many dogs that can’t lose weight with exercise are put on a prescription diet with higher fiber and fewer calories.

You will notice that your dog is pooping more than normal on higher fiber foods, but they at least should be losing some weight slowly over time. That is assuming that you actually follow the feeding recommendations and don’t give them any table scraps or additional treats. If you feel bad and want to give them a treat, you can just carry around a small baggie of kibble to give them. Remember, they are on that diet for a reason, and giving into their big eyes and sad puppy dog stare is not going to help them lose any weight.

What If My Dog Can’t Exercise?

In some unique cases, a dog is unable to exercise either due to an injury they are recovering from or because of some other medical condition. If this is an issue with your pet, then consulting with their veterinarian would be the first place to start. They should have some helpful advice on how to incorporate a safe level of exercise while they are recovering or debilitated.

There are times where exercise is not going to be possible, so cutting back on their food or putting them on a reduced-calorie diet would be the most likely recommendation. This may be where taking them to a rehab facility that can perform exercise methods like the underwater treadmill, swimming, or other orthopedic therapies would be the most beneficial.

The Importance of Exercise

Exercise is not only important for our dogs but is also key to living a long life as a human, too. Keeping their joints limber and moving will only ensure that your beloved canine companion stays healthier longer. We want our doggos around for as long as possible and in order to do so, we need to keep their hearts and joints healthy and happy.

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