Fitness is as important for puppies as for adult dogs.

Puppies can benefit from fitness exercise by helping them coordinate their nervous system, have good body awareness, and mentally challenge them.  

There are some cautions with puppies as you work them. 

First be patient and have fun!  Puppies are like kids in learning.  It takes time to allow them to figure things out with repetition and treats. They will learn what you are asking with consistent action and rewarding when they do it correctly. Rewarding is a whole different topic that I will write on later or give some references.  Have FUN!  Puppies are about play. So play with them and bring out your inner child again.   

Second be aware of their joint health. Puppies have growth plates on the end of their bones that allows them to grow tall and strong. Growth plates are soft areas at the end of long bones, like the femur and humerus, with rapidly dividing cells regulated by hormones that slows down at puberty.  If those growth plates are injured while they are growing the dog is more at risk for arthritis later in life.  What can you do?  Allow your puppy to play at their own pace. DO NOT run long distance with your puppy unless you have a cart or sack to carry them when they get tired.  Allow the puppy to run when they play at their pace so they can stop when tired.  DO NOT jump with them.  Allow them to play and jump at their own level so they can rest with fatigue.  Gentle play is best until the growth plates close about 1-2 years depending on the size of the dog.  Puppy culture has a great brochure with guidelines as to what activity to work with your puppy as they grow up.

Exercise fun with your puppy

Fitness exercises like elevated stand and step overs are great basics to start with your puppy.  They begin to work on balance and it mentally challenges them so they are tired for you.  As these exercises become part of their routine they will have a stronger body and foundation for play, work, or competition.

Mentally challenging a puppy is also part of a fitness program to help them work out problems.  Freeze a kong with baby food flavors like chicken, turkey, pumpkin, and squash to give them when you have a project to work on.  They can work on the frozen kong and it is a reward for being good while you work.  As they manipulate the kong with their paws it will stretch out the joints and strengthen them up too.

GO have FUN with your puppy! Let us know what exercises they like best.

April is National Canine Fitness Month!  What is Canine fitness?  Why am I so passionate about it?

You may have seen articles, facebook post, or seminars on canine fitness.  What is it?  Why would my dog want to take a fitness class or even go to a Certified Canine Fitness Trainer?

Fitness by definition is the condition of being physically fit and healthy. But what is that?

A second definition is the quality of being capable to fulfill a particular role or task. For a dog that is being able to compete in agility or be a happy pet chasing the ball.

The third definition is an organism’s ability to survive in a particular environment.

Dog Laying on the Couch

This relates to dogs as, in the wild they relied on great body awareness to hunt or fight so their muscles engaged to catch prey or defend their family. Today they don’t have much body awareness to sleep on the bed or couch 5 to 7 days a week.  This results in less body awareness to engage their core and leg muscles therefore increasing the risk of injury when catching a fresbie or chasing a ball.   When your dog runs after a ball or to catch a Frisbee in the air, their body spins and twist in different directions.  If there muscles are trained to handle the speed and spins they will safely grab the ball or catch the Frisbee. You can read more about this in my post “proprioception what is it?”

Dog Jumping for Ball

When we think of our fitness it brings up images of the gym, outdoor activities, or working with a trainer for a specific sport purpose. Canine fitness can also be a way to improve muscle, tendon, and nerve health so your dog can function at the highest health capacity during your favorite activities.   A Certified Canine Fitness Trainer has the skills to help your dog improve their strength, flexibility, cardio, and mental alertness. It is important to research who is training your dog and listen to your dog as you work with a trainer.  If you dog loves going then keep on going.  If not then you may want to reassess the program.

It fills my heart with passion to talk about the benefits of a creative, fun exercise plan for your pup and you to bond.  In the 70s and 80s I taught my dogs to sit, down, and shake because it was fun time with my dog.  I did not realize I was also teaching them body awareness. As a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner since 2012, I have seen the various injuries that can occur during innocent ball throwing. The biggest impact owners can do for their dogs are simple daily exercise plan to strengthen up their muscles, tendons, and nerves to prevent injury on the weekend, working, or in competition. As a Certified Canine Fitness Trainer since 2016, I love working with a dog to help them become strong and confident in their body so when they catch the ball or freisbe they engage their core and leg muscles.   I love watching a dog engage their core appropriately!  It sounds crazy.  I love watching the owners have more peace and joy when their dog is happy and healthy.

3 tips you can do right now to improve your dog body awareness:

  1. A quick couple minute warmup before ball or Frisbee play taking a quick brisk walk over different terrain to wake the body up, stimulate the nerves, and improve muscle reaction time.
  2. A few repeated sit, down, to stand will warm up key muscles they use to play ball or catch the Frisbee.
  3. Throwing the ball or Frisbee straight to limit the amount of twisting they have to do while in action to catch the toy.

Check out “Canine fitness workout to reduce injury” post for more simple daily tips.  Connect with us to create a plan for your dog, take one of our classes, or join our doggie fitness park for you and your pup to live a long happy life.

Leave us a comment on how these tips have changed you and your dogs life.