The ultimate guide to dog obesity, fitness and activity monitoring

8 July 2020

Find out everything you need to know, from how to tell your dog is overweight to how you can keep your buddy in shape.

young sporty woman running with dog outside

Notice your furry friend getting… rounder? You’re not alone. Around half of dogs worldwide are overweight or obese. Despite loving our dogs, it’s easy to lose track of how much activity they need, how much sleep they’re getting, and how much yumminess we’re treating them to. Guilty!
The good news is, activity monitoring makes it easy to keep your pet fit and happy. Here’s what we will cover in this article:

Do dogs get out of shape?

Yes! Just like humans, dogs need a nice balance of good food and plenty of exercise. And again, just like humans, it’s sometimes not easy to tell at a glance if they’re out of shape. Which is why it’s good to have an activity tracker that lets you see how many calories your dog has burned, and how active they’ve been.

Why is it important to tackle pet obesity?

Sure, our fluffballs are beautiful in all sizes. But it’s important to know when that goes from being cute and cuddly to becoming a health concern.

Studies show that around 60% of cats and dogs in the US (and 40% in Europe) are overweight.¹

In many cases, it’s just pet parents who love their furry friends and just want to spoil them.

By helping your dog lose weight, you can protect them from heart problems, diabetes and respiratory issues. You can also help keep their bones strong – and make sure they enjoy a longer, high quality life.

So, how to tell if my dog is overweight?

Can you feel your dog’s ribs when you touch their chest? If not, your dog might be overweight. The eye test can also help – a fat dog tends to look rounder from above and has a bit of a belly sag.

Overweight or obese dogs also might come across more tired or “lazy”. The safest bet is to take your doggo to the vet for a weigh-in, and let them compare to what’s healthy for their breed and age. Vets regard the Body Condition Score as the best way to evaluate a pet’s weight

Any tips on how to help my dog lose weight?

The first step would be to get your vet’s advice on the ideal diet for your pup and a dog health check. There’s lots of information out there, but no one knows your dog like the person who takes care of their health on a regular basis. Other than that, you can turn up the tempo on your leisure walks. That way, you can ensure your doggo is burning calories and getting a good cardio workout. Opting for healthy treats instead of high-calorie snacks for your dog can also help.

How much exercise does a healthy dog need?

It depends. Super-active dog breeds/hyperactive dogs like Terriers are merrier with more exercise. Older sirs and dames might not need as much activity as before. And that’s before addressing your dog’s paw-sonal needs.

However, a ruff estimate (sorry), would be 60 minutes a day. That being said, some pet parents aim for 2 hours, while others cap it at 30 minutes.

No matter what you settle on, you can set goals and track your progress easily with Tractive’s activity monitoring feature.

Want more breed-specific tips on how often to walk your dog? This guide has you covered.

Any other recommendations for outdoor activities with my dog?

Daily walks are awesome. But hiking with dogs and exploring the great outdoors? That’s even awesome(r). Depending on where you go, it also gives them the chance to paddle about in the water and work out all their muscles.

Raring to go explore? First, check our guide for picture-perfect hikes with your doggo.

Some love to go running with their dogs – which is a great way for both human and dog to keep fit. If you plan on going on a run together, just make sure to set a dog-friendly pace and time. These bundles of energy love moving about, and will take their cue from you and keep going even if they’re exhausted.

Get off to a great start with these four-legged running tips from our fitness buddies at Runtastic.

young woman running uphill with dog

How many hours of sleep should my dog be getting?

Dogs, on average, sleep 12 to 14 hours a day. You could say it’s their number one priority! Every furry sleepyhead, though, has different needs. Bigger doggos tend to sleep longer. Older dogs – just like grandpa – are prone to impromptu naps. Puppies, on the other hand, require a clear sleep schedule. Regardless, all healthy, active pups need plenty of rest to recharge.

Long story short, learn what works best for your furry friend, whether that’s sleeping in late or taking frequent naps. Just keep an eye out for any changes to their sleep patterns, and how much rest they’re getting daily – something activity monitoring can help you do.

Oh, and in case you were wondering if dogs dream, the answer is yes. 😉

How does activity monitoring help me keep my dog fit?

Easy. It lets you track all your pup’s activity in one place, including:

  • How much time they spend walking
  • How much time they spend running
  • How much rest they get
  • How many calories they’ve burned

You can also set a daily goal to keep you and your pup on track with Tractive activity monitoring. Plus, compare your doggo’s activity to their furry pals worldwide, as well as dogs of the same breed. In other words, it lets you know your dog is fit and happy, share your success with other pet parents, and show the world how much of a little champ your furry friend is.

Find out more about Tractive’s all-in-one GPS location and activity trackers.

screenshots from the activity monitoring in the Tractive GPS AppIs it possible to exercise my dog too much?

Fit dogs benefit from rest days – especially if you and your dog do a lot of intense activities like runs, hikes and swims, or if you have an older dog. But even with casual walks, it’s good to remember that just being out in the world is stimulating for dogs. Our curious buddies love exploring, meeting people and other pets, and moving about. However, it does drain their energy.

In general, getting enough rest is just as important for your dog as getting enough exercise. That’s why our activity monitor shows you how much time your pup spends napping, sleeping and resting as well as how long they’ve been active.

So, opt for an indoor day where you swap the fun of the indoors with cozy (but active!) playtime. That brings us to…

The weather is awful – how can I keep my dog active indoors?

Do you, by chance, reside in Scotland? Kidding aside, with a bit of creativity, you can give your four-legged friend a fun workout within four walls. Here are some suggestions:

Tug of War:
This fun back-and-forth game isn’t just fun. It builds your dog’s confidence, brings you and your pup even closer, and lets them let go of pent up energy.
Hide & Seek:
Where’s my hooman? In the bathroom? On the bed? Under the couch? With this game, you can get your dog active and satisfy their curious, adventurous side.
Dog Yoga:
If you’ve tried doing yoga around a dog, you know (from licks in the face) how interested they are. They’ve already mastered downward dog, so not much of a stretch to keep going!

If you are looking for more inspiration on rainy day activities, we’ve got you covered.

How many steps should dogs take per day?

From our experience, how long doggos spend being active is a much better way of measuring fitness than step count. Let’s use an example to illustrate:

Picture a day in the life of Pawla, a cheery, lively Golden Retriever. Her human takes her to the park where she spends an awesome half hour running, jumping and playing fetch.

That, obviously, is a great workout for Pawla.

But just going by step count, you might not have been able to monitor all her activity accurately. Looking at “active minutes”, on the other hand, takes everything into account – whether it’s brisk runs or casual trots – and gives you a much clearer picture.

What can I try to get my dog more active? He’s a bit… lazy

There’s plenty you can do, but a short list would include:

Start slow:
If your pup’s a bit out of shape, you can start with shorter, 15 minute walks, and over time aim for an hour. You can also pick up the speed as you go!
Get into a rhythm:
Like us, dogs are creatures of habit. A clear routine gives them something to look forward to every day.
Reward your champ:
Not with treats, but with cuddles and praise. And if you’re using Tractive activity monitoring, you’ll be rewarded too!

Remember – you benefit from your pet being active too

Did you know that humans whose pets are more active enjoy health benefits too? Regular walks can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Even just having a dog means that, on average, you walk 200 more minutes per week than folks without a pup.

It also appears that dogs make for the best wingmen and wingwomen. Almost 50% of respondents in a survey said their dog helped them meet new people!

Now that you’ve got all that knowledge, what’s the next steps? Stepping to the local park, of course! And letting your Tractive GPS tracker keep an eye on your pup’s fitness while you simply enjoy your time together.

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