Pet Talk: Power walking pooches

WARNING: This article requires you to perform physical activity. If you refuse to perform physical activity, then you are not allowed to read this article.

Get up and take an enjoyable walk around the block. Choose a comfortable pace. Take your dog along, if you like.

Back so soon? Now, go for another walk around the block -- but this time, you should take big steps and swing your arms as much as possible. (Leave the dog at home this time.) After a few minutes, you will realize that "power walking" is a lot of work. Don't worry about the fact that you look silly -- we all look better after exercise than during it.

When most of us take the dog for a walk, it is more honestly described as "a leisurely stroll" -- a low energy walk at a meandering pace. Though it is good to get out and stretch the legs, there is a big difference between going for a walk and going for a power walk.

Because most dogs don't get nearly enough exercise, they become fat and lazy. When these out-of-shape dogs do go for a walk, they set a pace that is easy and comfortable. If we let the dog set the pace, he will take short little steps that use the least amount of energy possible. A comfortable pace is usually not good exercise.

When we power walk with our pooch, it will help him to develop stronger muscles, more mobile joints, and can actually reverse some of the aches and pains of arthritis. Any dog that can walk is able to power walk -- at any age.

Like all exercise programs, you (and your dog) need to work up to high intensity power walking. Start out with 5 to 10 minutes of your usual walk. Let the dog sniff around and warm up his joints and muscles. After the warm up, pick up the pace and begin power walking.

The key to power walking with your pooch is the "range of motion." His legs need to move as far forward and backward as possible. At first, this may not be a very big difference. Your dog is used to taking little, energy efficient (lazy) steps. Over time, power walking is going to help him take longer, more powerful strides.

Each dog is different, so the pace needs to be tailored to the individual dog's needs. After about 10 minutes of high intensity power walking, then it is time to cool down. Take another 5 to 10 minutes to gradually decrease to a comfortable pace -- you know, what you used to call "taking the dog for a walk."

If you don't address your dog's weight problem, then he will certainly become arthritic over time. Lazy or painful dogs don't exercise much on their own, so they gain more weight, which makes their muscles and joints even more painful.

I have seen the results of power walking in older, arthritic dogs. Sure, many of these dogs still need a prescription arthritis medication to ease their aches and pains. But over time, they will often need less medication and will be more active.

The entire workout (from warm up to Power Walk to cool down) only takes 20 to 30 minutes out of your day. That's a small time investment for your dog's good health and comfort. If you power walk with your dog four to five times per week, you will see results within a month. Your dog will look better, feel younger and be happier. Now, quit reading this article and take your pooch out for his first power walk.

Dr. Jon Klingborg is a veterinarian associated with Valley Medical Center in Merced. He may be contacted at