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Walk Your Dog to Weight Loss

6 steps to start a fitness regimen that will keep you — and your pet — healthy and fit

En español │Pets don't care how they look, and they don't mind how you look, either. But extra weight is as much a health problem for our pets as it is for us.

In our increasingly sedentary, stressed-out and overfed culture, people and pets are consuming more calories, exercising less and collectively getting more overweight by the minute. But just as we gained the weight together, we can lose it together, too.

Dr. Marty Becker: 5 Things About Dog Walking

— Jonathan Kingston/Aurora

If getting fit and losing weight was one of your New Year's resolutions, your dog can help.  After all, he's the only exercise partner who will never blow you off for a better offer or decide staying in bed is better than going for a walk. In fact, studies show that people with pets are more likely to be active, and pet lovers who start walking with their dogs for fitness are more likely to keep doing so.

Best of all: Your four-legged personal trainer charges you nothing to keep you motivated, and pays you in canine exuberance, doggy kisses and nonstop tail wags.

Ready to get started? Here's how:

Check in with a checkup. Before beginning any exercise regimen, you should consult your doctor and your dog needs to see a veterinarian. You'll want to know what your physical limitations are so you can work around them — and eventually beyond them. While you're at your respective doctors' offices, get an accurate weight so you have a starting point.

Make a plan. Tracking your walks can be as simple or as complicated as you want. Simple: Get a wall calendar and mark the days and the distance, with monthly check-ins for weight loss. Complicated: Look into software applications and websites that track workouts, calories and more.

Get your gear on. You don't need much in the way of equipment. Good walking shoes and weather-appropriate attire will suffice. Your dog needs a collar with ID and a license, and a six-foot leash. Two recent inventions in dog gear make walking much easier: the head halter and the front-clip harness. For a strong dog that sometimes pulls, these tools can be like power steering for your pup. Many dogs cope just fine in their own fur coats, but smaller, older dogs — and thin breeds, such as greyhounds and whippets — will likely enjoy the outing more with booties and a sweater or raincoat.

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