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Jump in and find a fitness plan both you and your dog will enjoy.

Just like you, your four-legged friend can benefit from an exercise routine. Regular exercise improves muscle tone, joint flexibility, digestion and cardiovascular fitness. Exercise also helps prevent obesity, which has been linked to numerous health problems in dogs.

Besides making your dog healthier, exercise also makes her happier. She'll be more relaxed and less destructive.

Getting Started

Before beginning a fitness plan, take your pet to your veterinarian for a pre-exercise physical. He or she will check for heart, lung, and joint problems and evaluate your dog's overall condition. Your pal's exercise program should be tailored to her age, size and breed. Ask your veterinarian how much exercise - and what kind - is appropriate for your dog.

Even if your dog has a health problem, she still needs to be fit. Your vet can recommend an appropriate exercise program that works around her condition. Healthy dogs can begin to incorporate exercise into their routines with two short exercise sessions a day. Possibilities include a 15-minute walk, a game of fetch in the backyard or a quick swim. Start slow and listen to your vet's advice ... but start!

Basic Guidelines

When you exercise your dog outdoors, pick areas with soft grass or dirt. Exercising your pet on hard or slippery surfaces can damage her footpads or lead to falls.

Prevent heatstroke by skipping exercise sessions on extremely hot days. Watch your pet closely to see if she drinks plenty of fresh water during the day and stop if you notice excessive panting or fatigue during workouts on very warm days.

Also, avoid exercising your pet within an hour of her eating a large meal, especially if she's one of the larger, deep-chested breeds predisposed to bloat. (Bloat is a serious disease in which the stomach fills with air. In serious cases the stomach can twist, trapping the air and causing shock -or even death.)

How Much is Enough?

Different breeds require different exercise routines. For the average adult dog, 20 to 45 minutes of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking twice a day, is sufficient. This guideline applies to most mixed breeds and purebred dogs.

More active dogs, including many of the sporting, herding and working breeds, may need one to two hours of vigorous exercise each day. By contrast, small toy breeds may get much of the exercise they need inside an apartment.

Once you've worked up to the exercise level your veterinarian recommends, monitor your dog's activity level. If she still tears through the house or takes flying leaps off your sofa, she might need a more vigorous workout.

On the other hand, take care not to do too much too fast. Your canine companion can't tell you when she's had enough, so it's your job to look for signs of weariness, including an altered gait or heavy panting.

Use your dog's exercise session to connect with your canine companion. She'll not only release pent-up energy, she'll look and feel great!

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