Billy Rafferty and dog
Photo: Michael Vistia
Exercise also helps focus your dog's energy. After a four-year and 50-pound hiatus, Billy's dog Gabriel inspired him to get off the couch and lose the excess weight. 

Choose activities that are appropriate for humans and canines. Be honest and realistic when you assess everyone's capabilities. Before beginning any exercise or rigorous activity, consult with your dog's veterinarian and your medical doctor. 

For your dog, consider these factors: age, breed, physical characteristics, personality, health, stamina, preferences and obedience skills. Verify that Fido's vaccinations and parasite preventatives are current. Many dogs cannot jog or engage in rigorous activity until they are about 18 months old, so check with your doctor before you start working out. As you play or exercise, continually observe your dog for signs of fatigue or injury. Never push your dog to his physical limits. You are the only thing between Fido and overexertion. 

Safety is important too. Here are some additional factors to keep in mind while you exercise with your pooch:
  • Be sure your pooch's identification tags and microchip are current.
  • Unless you are in a 100 percent enclosed and safe area, keep your dog on leash.
  • Never leave your dog unattended.
  • Dress comfortably with the weather in mind. Canine clothing is practical and protects your pooch from too much sun or snow. In addition, protect canine paws from hot asphalt or winter salt with boots. Canine sunscreen is helpful too.
  • Brush up on your dog's obedience skills. Your dog must be able to safely interact with others and be in your control at all times. "Come," "sit" and "stay" are crucial commands.

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