Get Fit Wth Your Dog

Liz Miller and her buddy have one thing in common - they are both battling the bulge.

So they started exercising together, even though it means Miller sometimes has to keep her training companion on a tight leash.

The obesity epidemic isn't just affecting people. Pooches, like Miller's "dangerously overweight" mutt Starch'n'Brown, are also packing on the kilos.

That's why Miller decided to begin a vet-designed, 12 week training program aimed at getting them both running 5ks a day.

"It has been pretty challenging," the 44-year-old Queenslander says.

"My dog is quite dangerously overweight...we tried reduced calorie intake diets but they haven't been working.

"He needs to get out and run, that is my main motivation."

The free "pooch to 5k" program is inspired by the "couch to 5k" initiative for humans. It gradually builds fitness, starting with repeated one minute jogs and ninety second walks.

"I know it sounds silly but I found it so hard to get to a minute jogging, I was looking at the stopwatch from 42 seconds onwards," Miller says.

"But by the end of the week I found I didn't need the full minute and a half to recover myself (and) I'm not so sore this week."

The program is also paying off for Starch'n'Brown, who has lost 2 kilos to date.

The program was designed by vet and avid runner Audrey Harvey, who noticed an increase in chubby canines.

"I am seeing more and more dogs being a bit curvy around the waistline," she says.

"My whole family run with our four dogs and our dogs are very lean and healthy and I just wondered if there was some way that we could ... encourage people to get out and run with their dogs."

Animal behaviourist Kersti Seksel says dog owners need to be disciplined about not over-feeding their canine companions.

"People in general like to feed things, they feed the wildlife and the feed the ducks and if they have got those big brown eyes looking at them they feed the dog," Seksel says.

Another reason puppy fat is on the increase is that many dog owners are too busy to walk them, she says.

"I think (dog obesit
y) is an increasing issue and part of that may well be that owners are really busy so they just don't have time to walk the dog," Seksel says.

If a dog is a healthy weight you should be able to feel its ribs and backbone.

"If you look down at your dog is should still have a waistline, it shouldn't look like a table-top," she says.

The training program can be downloaded from It also features a forum where dog owners can get advice from Harvey and her marathon runner husband.

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