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New Workout You Can Do With Your Dog

A couple of years ago I rescued two dogs: Sachi and Bandit. I love them dearly and always to take care of them to the best of my abilities. I love them so much, but I might be guilty of occasionally giving them one too many treats. I have even been known to give them a few pieces of yams and scraps of chicken.

They always look so happy and pleased when they get the occasional special treat of "human food."

Recently, I noticed that Bandit was looking a little pudgy, and I thought: "Aw, cute pudgy Bandit." But honestly, that really shouldn't have been my reaction. A recent survey by the Association of Pet Obesity Prevention revealed that more than 52 percent, that's about 36.7 million, of dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese. (The numbers were greater for cats: 58.3 percent.) Scarier to me though, was the fact that almost 46 percent of dog owners thought their overweight or obese dogs were actually in the "normal weight" category.  This meant that my pudgy pup was more than likely overweight.

Reality check for me. A pudgy pup might actually not be a healthy happy pup.

Being overweight could lead dogs to develop weight-related musculoskeletal conditions (such as joint problems), which ultimately will have an impact on their quality of life and also your finances - you'll be visiting the vet more often.

While searching for a solution, I attended an event in Los Angeles announcing a new workout program for people and their dogs, created by Dolvett Quince, dog lover, and Celebrity Trainer on the upcoming season of NBC's "The Biggest Loser."  There, I had the chance to chat with Dr. Nina Nardi, a veterinarian from Banfield Pet Hospital.

Is Human Food OK for Dogs?

According to Dr. Nardi, the most important thing to your dog's health and fitness is feeding.  "A lot of people give their dogs a lot table scraps and treats, and that's the biggest problem with pets being overweight." She recommends avoiding human food and sticking to dog food. Additionally, Quince mentioned that just like with humans, portions are crucial to keep in mind when feeding a dog. He pointed that many times what seems like a small portion for a human ends up being 3 or 4 times what a small dog should be eating.

When I asked Dr. Nardi about whether dog food contained too many grains, she said that she believes that a lot of the grains are not bad and that many people are concerned about this because of gluten allergies. However, when it comes to allergies in dogs, more often the protein the culprit, and not the grains.

How Much Exercise Should Dogs Get?

Both Dr. Nardi and Quince agreed that it depends on your pet and their medical condition.  Dr. Nardi said that exercise is important and that is ok to do multiple small walks a day (even if they are only 10 minutes long).

As a personal trainer, Quince wants to get both dogs and their owners moving as much as possible to stay healthy. He doesn't believe in not having time. And he points out that we are the ones who create the excuses, not our dogs. Quince suggests that we try to get up earlier three times a week to take our dogs for longer walks, or even go for a run in the park with Fido.

Here are some of the Dolvett's dog-friendly moves I learned:

Lunges

1. With your dog on a leash, start with your feet together and keep your chin up. Focus on an object straight ahead to help your balance and to keep your chin aligned.

2. Step forward with one leg and bend both legs until you're at a 90-degree angle. Avoid letting your back knee hit the ground.

3. Guide your dog with you during the lunge, so he/she is participating. If possible, make these walking lunges down your street, in your backyard or at the park so that your dog gets the added benefit of exercise as well! You'll be doing most of the work, but it's a great way to workout with your dog by your side.

4. Start with 10-15 lunges per leg and work up to 20 per leg for three sets total.

Plank Fetch

1. Get one of your dog's favorite toys.

2. Lie on your stomach flat on the floor and rest your body on your forearms with your palms flat on the floor. Make sure your shoulders are aligned directly over your elbows, and your legs are straight behind you with your ankles, knees and thighs touching. In a push-up motion, raise your body off the floor, supporting your weight on your forearms and your toes. You should have a straight line from your feet to your head. For comfort, rotate your elbows to a 45-degree angle and clasp your palms together. Make sure your back is flat and your head, neck and spine are in a straight line. You are now in the plank position!

3. Take your dog's toy in your right hand and extend it out to the side of your body so your dog follows the toy; hold it there for three seconds and then toss the toy so your dog fetches it. Continue to hold your plank position until your dog retrieves the toy.

4. When the dog brings it back to you, use your opposite hand and repeat the exercise, being sure to throw the toy each time. Continue to alternate for a total of 20-30 throws.

Burpee

1. To do a burpee, start by jumping up (with dog toy in hand); then jumping down into a push-up position; do a complete push-up (back flat) and then bring your feet to your hands and jump back up. As you jump up, hold your dog's toy above your head. Then, toss it and have him or her retrieve as you do another burpee.

2. Keep repeating burpees until he/she returns with the toy and repeat the exercise for both of you.

3. Start with 2-3 sets of 10 and aim for a total of five sets of 10.

4. This is a fun combo exercise: you get a high cardio workout and your pet gets to play fetch!

You can check out all the dog-friendly workout moves here.

I think that from now on I'll definitely stop giving my dogs any "people food," unless my vet says it's OK.

Would you work out with your dog? How often do you walk your dog each week? Do you have a pudgy dog too? How do you feel about feeding dogs human food? Would love to see pictures of your dogs! You can tweet them to me @luzplaza.

>> Read more of Luz Plaza's articles here! <<

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