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Healthcare: Fit & Fabulous

If you think small dogs aren't big on exercise, think again. Many small dogs are highly active and need plenty of exercise. In fact, exercise is essential to keep their little bodies and minds healthy! By encouraging each other to get out there and get in shape, you'll both enjoy the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle.

Do your small dog a big favor

The amount of exercise a dog requires depends on its size and the breed. When choosing a small breed it's a good idea to take an honest look at your own activity level. If you are active and enjoy having fun outside, you may want to consider such breeds as Yorkies, Chihuahuas, Poodles, Dachshunds and Pomeranians.

However, even breeds that don't exude high energy need a physical routine to maintain optimal health. Exercise can also help offset or reduce common health issues, such as joint sensitivity, cartilage problems, easily broken bones, and subluxating patellas (degenerative disease of the knee cap).

Guidelines to a good workout

The amount of exercise your small dog needs also depends on its life-stage. Let's face it, a small-dog puppy is busy, curious, and in constant motion (except when he conks-out and takes a well-deserved nap). Be careful when playing with him, or walking him, since he still has soft and pliable bones. Avoid overburdening his body and joints at this point in his development. It's best to hold off until your little friend is more developed.

Like you, your puppy needs some time to digest his food after a meal. Typically puppies like to have a nap after a meal, so don’t force your little friend to exercise when his belly is full.

As your puppy begins to develop into an adult, going for regular walks should become the norm. Before your "little baby" goes out in the world of walks for the first time, make sure he has had all necessary vaccinations and has been given the go-ahead by your veterinarian.

To avoid obesity, take adult small dogs for a daily walk or run. Going on regular walks provides an opportunity for both stimulation and socialization through meeting other dogs, which is vital to their social and mental development.

Just like with humans, as your small dog moves into his senior years he will start to slow down and develop all the stiffness, aches and pains associated with old age. It's critical for senior dogs to continue with a moderate amount of exercise to keep their joints nimble and for good circulation. Try taking your senior small dog for shorter, more frequent walks that match its ability. Also, avoid taking him out in extreme weather conditions.

Also, if your little friend develops any vision or hearing problems, consider using a leash to avoid the worry of him running away. Older small dogs may also develop bladder and bowel weakness, so a little extra patience on walks will go a long way for your little companion.

Components of a great walk

With a little effort, you can help your small dog look and feel his best! Walks can be the most exciting part of your little friend's day. Just think of all the different sights, sounds and smells he enjoys during a walk. So, if your little friend starts off overexcited, have a little romp with a ball in the yard to burn off some energy before putting paws to pavement.

Thinking of jogging with your small dog? Ask your vet first, to ensure that your little friend can handle the pace. When you do go for a jog together, bring plenty of fresh water for both of you—and remember to pace your stride for your small dog's little legs.

It's also helpful to have your companion wander over a variety of terrain. A hard ground surface is particularly good for keeping your small dog's nails short. Be sure to avoid hot asphalt as it can scorch your little friend's paw pads.

Walking is a fantastic way to socialize your small dog. After all, meeting other dogs can be very exciting. The best way to manage the excitement of these interactions is to ensure that both animals are on-leash. If you happen to be in an off-leash park, don't let your little friend wander off for long periods without keeping an eye on him. And remember to bring plastic bags with you so you can pick up after your pooch.

Exercise plays a key role in helping you and your favorite friend live a healthy and happy life. Going out together is not only a fun way to stay in shape, but a great way to enhance a well-rounded relationship.