Dogs and humans have been working side by side for centuries. How about a gym workout to build stronger bodies and dog human bond together?
Let’s back up.
In 2007 I was infected with West Nile Virus neuroinvasive and it has been a long road to healing. In 2016 I found a fitness trainer to help strengthen my core and nervous system that ultimately helped me get my body back. In early 2018 I found my mind and spirit again. What a feeling to be whole in body, mind and spirit!!! It is a journey learning how to listen and work with each part. Last week I was getting ready for the MS 150 bike ride and nursing an injury 2 weeks prior. As I was on the spin bike my body said ‘it did not want to give up the life it got back’. My spirit said ‘you will not lose that life but you need to rest’. My whole body shifted, I wanted to cry as I had listened to my inner child and held her.
This is what I have been doing for dogs since 2012. I listen to their inner spirit and help them work with their body challenges to live a great life, as a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner. They did daily exercises to heal their injuries from back, knee, and neck pain. K9 Fitness Works grew out of a passion to help dogs be stronger before injury.
One more piece of this creation.
Tina was my girl 2002-2013. She was by my side during WNV and she knew a relapse was coming before I did. We learned to work together so we both could enjoy life. She taught me how to communicate with dogs on a spiritual and body level. Dogs are drawn to my energy of healing and compassion for them by trying to cross the road to get to me.
Now I am combining all of these into a class to create stronger dogs and stronger humans through physical fitness creating a stronger bond. It is so beautiful!
We start with a warm up routine that can be done any time before your favorite activity. Then circuit 1 of exercises to strengthen up the core, legs, and bond. A 5 minute rest to pee and sniff. Then circuit 2 to continue flexibility and proprioception. Finish with a cool down to rest the body, mind, and spirit connection.
That sounds like good fun! I also teach Basic Dog Fitness class so you can feel confident what to do with your dog when you are in Fuzzy Gym Buddy Class.
Check out our class times at our service page or register here.
We all know the importance of exercise for our dogs. It is as important to get your dog’s daily exercise as it is to feed him breakfast or visit the vet. For your dog’s daily exercise, you probably take them on long walks, play Frisbee or even run with if they are up for the task.
Just as we humans try to run or do some cardiovascular training to keep our heart strong and weight down, we know that keeping our core strong is just as important. To keep our muscles limber and strong, some of us go to yoga, Pilates and/or lift weights to keep injury free and help our overall fitness.
Dogs are just the same. When they are sleeping all day long and suddenly get up or try to catch a Frisbee that is flying in the air, they can twist their body in an awkward way and hurt themselves. Canine Fitness can help prevent your dogs’ from getting injured and stay flexible.
What is Canine Fitness?
Canine fitness is a way to help strengthen your dog’s muscles, tendons, and overall conditioning so that your dog can engage in his favorite activities without getting hurt. A good Certified Canine Fitness Trainer will help your dog improve his strength, flexibility, and even mental alertness .
The best trainers will do an overall assessment to see where your dog’s body needs strengthening and how to help them use their core or leg muscles properly. A good trainer will create a plan and give you some exercises that you can do at home with your dog.
Canine Fitness Can Help Prevent Injury
Canine fitness is not just for dogs who are athletes that compete in sports, but for all dogs. The dogs that have a stronger core and overall body strength are less likely to get injured.
For example, if you and your dog are playing a game of Fetch and your dog runs too quickly, skids, or moves in the wrong direction, he can seriously hurt his paw or knee. However, if your dog’s core and overall body strength is more flexible and stronger, than your dog will probably recover more quickly and even better, won’t get injured.
Older Dogs Can Benefit From Stretching
Core training can help all dogs, particularly older ones. A good, solid Canine Trainer will know how to stretch your dog properly so your older pup can sit up and walk more readily.
Even certain breeds, like Labradors, that tend to have hip or elbow issues early in life, canine fitness can help with their overall gait. With strength training and stretching, your Labrador will become more flexible as will his hip and elbow muscles stronger.
Watch Your Dog To See What He Does Naturally
Some of the best core conditioning training tips will come straight from your dog. Just watch to see what he does naturally and what he enjoys the best. Maybe it’s even a simple warm-up routine before you play Frisbee or engage in any other physical activity.
As always, only use positive reinforcement to encourage the activity that he likes so that he will do it even more on his own.
Your Dog’s Weight Is Equally Important
By keeping your dog on the slimmer side, it can help with any running, jogging or even daily walks. The heavier the dog, the more inflammation and pressure that he is putting on his joints. Make sure your dog is at his proper weight.
Some Other Things to Consider:
- Always consult your veterinarian before starting your pup on any new exercise program.
- Start slowly and carefully, particularly if your dog is older or overweight.
- Use positive reinforcement to motivate your dog to learn new exercises to help strengthen his core muscles.
- Consult with a certified canine fitness trainer professional
If your dog is injured, make sure to take him to the vet immediately. And, hopefully, if you have pet insurance, it can help pay for this or any injury that might occur with your dog. If you don’t have pet insurance consider it because an injury can cost $5000-$30000 for rehabilitation.
There is a lot to know about pet insurance and this guide from Consumers Advocate.org can explain not only how pet insurance works, but the best companies that offer pet insurance.
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.
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.
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?”
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:
- 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.
- A few repeated sit, down, to stand will warm up key muscles they use to play ball or catch the Frisbee.
- 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.
Self-stabilization, Proprioception, What is it?
Do you remember a time your dog jumped on the bed and missed? Or you tripped on a crack in the cement? Your dog or you had a deficient proprioceptive or self-stabilizing system in the moment.
Puppies are sensitive to the environment around them and are able to respond quickly to every little change. Dogs have evolved to be deeply aware of their surroundings and adjust to changes for survival. Their bodies are sensitive receivers taking in new information that translates to body movement. As dogs are becoming more sedentary their body awareness is decreasing causing more injuries on hikes, work, or in competition.
In scientific terms.
Proprioception is the awareness of the body in space through mechanoreceptors and neuro sensing cells in the skin, receptive to the environment around us. In English, the dog’s feet have neuro sensing cells that send messages of the ground they walk on to the brain. These cells also monitor joint position and movement during daily activities.
Another way to say it.
This is the dynamic system of self-stabilization. When your dog or you are on an uneven surface like a pebble road or the side of a mountain the nervous system is receiving input to adjust muscles for stabilizing so you both don’t fall down. Not only muscles, also tendons, ligaments, and joint compression are modifying how they respond to the environment. A pretty intricate system when you think about it.
Our dog gets hurt when there is less body awareness to compensate for the change in environment. All day long they are lying on the couch with an occasional squirrel window chase or outside sound arousal. After we get done with work we take our dog on a hike, work them, or practice for a weekend competition. They have not had practice using their body on unstable surfaces during the day so there is decreased body awareness as they are walking over rocky terrain or jumping over an agility pole. Their body is slower to respond to the change in environment which causes muscles, tendons, and ligaments to adjust slower potentially causing a muscle strain.
How do we improve this to limit injury?
A very simple change in routine can save you and your puppy a lot of pain later. Here are a few simple tips you can do at home or on a walk to improve body awareness then preventing injury.
- Walk over different terrain on your daily walks after work. Stepping over rocks, curbs, mulch, sand, recycled rubber at play grounds, sticks, and grass can improve the input to the mechanoreceptors in their feet. That input improves body awareness.
- 2. Placing poles, broom sticks, or sticks in a path they walk daily to encourage knowing where their feet are in space. In a hallway, outside the door, or after the patio steps. You can use expandable curtain rods in the hallway, don’t leave them up at night. Go to the dollar store and buy 2 laundry baskets with holes and stake them in the yard upside down. Then place poles in them. Be creative with your exercises.
These simple steps can improve your dog’s body awareness to react quicker to an obstacle helping preventing injury. You can do the same exercises with them to help your proprioception while creating a stronger bond with your dog.
Leave us a comment or photo of your dog’s proprioceptive exercises.
Be Present with Your Dog
As I am hiking the Colorado trails along the foothills of Ft Collins I see dogs dragging behind their owners as they are on their cell phone. Are you paying more attention to your phone then your dog on beautiful Colorado trails?
It is the weekend so you want to spend time outside and you take your dog because they have been inside all week so they want to be outside too. There are so many problems here I don’t know where to begin.
Weak Body Awareness
First problem is your dog has been inside all week, lying on the couch waiting for you to get home so they can play some ball or Frisbee. If your dog is lucky they will get a walk once a day and maybe twice a day. Physically your dog has poor core, back leg muscles, and proprioception. I talked about proprioception in ‘Proprioception, What is it’.
A weak core, hind legs, and proprioception create a weak dog when out on a hike or even jumping in the car. They have become a couch potato and now you want them to hike with you. As they maneuver over rocky terrain and hills their body is slow to respond to the movements required and they end up with a back, neck, or knee injury that now lands them in pain and your pocket book short on money. It takes a year or more for physical rehabilitation to heal the injury and then prepare them for normal life as a stronger dog.
This can all be avoided by daily exercise routine of 10 min or less in the house or on a daily walk. I talked about some basic exercise to improve core, hind leg muscles, and proprioception in ‘Canine Fitness Workout to Reduce Injury’. If you are in the Northern Colorado area you can take one of our many fitness classes for your dog.
Second problem is you are not paying attention to your dog while hiking the beautiful Rockies if you are on your phone. I see people, all the time, walking on a trail ahead of the dog as they are in pain or thirsty lagging behind. As a veterinary technician in Jackson Hole I saw many dogs die after heat stroke because their owner left them in their wake riding their bike down the hill. Please be aware and present with your dog while having fun outdoors.
Being present with your dog on a hike is a very good human animal bonding experience that will fill you both with joy in the beautiful Colorado Rockies. You are able to monitor your dog’s body awareness and movements as you hike over rocky terrain or along a river. Your dog is aware of your focus on them and is able to communicate their needs for water or a snack during lunch time. Sometimes they are just plan goofy to entertain you while you are both communicating on your walk or hike. If you catch a change in their gait or body position you can assess them and prevent an injury later.
I Hear You!
If you have not read my story on animal communication go check out “I Hear You”. A story about Tina, my best dog, that helped me recover from an illness.
Leave a comment about your best hikes with your dog and how you communicate with each other.
Have you ever experienced a time when you could hear what your dog was thinking or telling you loud and clear?
Even though I’ve been connecting and working with dogs for most of my life, this awareness jumped out at me when I met Tina.
Back in 2002
Back in 2002, I was studying at a private veterinary school on the small island south of FL. I was miserable, coughing, and exhausted from long hours of study and a stressful environment. But I didn’t want to go the town doctor, because in addition to sick patients, he had chickens and cats that roaming through his open cinderblock windows.
My fellow vet students felt the same way I did and we would always say; “if I get deathly sick, get me on the next plane to US territory!”.
So we could avoid x-ray’s in the parking lot with the chickens, we did a lot of our own medicating and treatments, all legal of course! When my friend saw me at school that day, looking exhausted and coughing uncontrollably, she said, “What you need is Elderberry because it stimulates the body’s immune system and helps coughs”.
I was already swallowing Echinacea complex pills trying to beat the bacteria attacking my immune system. But we obtained whatever we thought might work, so we didn’t have to go to the doctor with the chickens!
I came home to my small apartment, ready to plop down on my single mattress bed and was greeted by Tina, my black and tan island Shepard that was 30lbs of skin on a little muscle with big pointy ears. She was a rescue dog, from a junk yard living in survival mode to feed her puppies.
She was looking for food and shelter from me, other than that she kept her distance laying in the yard with the other student dogs basking in the sun, which was her favorite past time.
I was in Survival mode too. Being so far away from home in order to pursue my vet education, leaving Sade my German Shephard lab dog behind, who died the day after I left the U.S, so my heart was still healing and I was also keeping my distance from Tina too.
I needed to lay down, I was feeling worse, but first I checked to make sure the glass patio door was secure.
We had been broken into once before. The Islanders would break into our apartments because they thought we were rich Americans with our cell phones and computers! I secured the door between the kitchen and bedroom as Tina and I headed to bed. I retrieved the machete and a knife out of the closet to lay on my night stand, to aid me in protection.
Tina is right next to my side, she’s following me everywhere as I stumble around checking the doors and getting ready to sleep. I am basically tripping over her, as she has been showing this behavior the last few days. This is unusual since she has kept her distance.
But I fell on my bed exhausted quickly falling asleep. Then I woke up, to a shadow of a man at the end of my bed. Maybe it was the sun shining through my windows with bars, as I keep blinking my eyes to get a clearer picture with my heart pounding loud in my chest.
And I’m groping for my weapons on the side of the bed, keeping my eye on the shadow at the same time, and then in the same spot, Tina pops up with her pointy ears on alert as if to say, wait a minute, don’t get the machete out just yet! What are you seeing there? Shadow man not rea! Tina real. Shadow man, not real!
As I watched Tina, and really listened to her, I realized the shadow man, just might be the combination of healing plants and self-medication!
I looked at Tina who was still staring at me and I said, “I hear you, it’s the plants”
Tina looked at me smiled as if to say, yup you got it and walked outside to bask in the sun.
Yes, Tina and I were communicating on a deeper level. I didn’t really realize it at the time, but from that point on, we ditched our survival mode and become bonded best friends playing on the beach together. When I came back to the states, she happily came with me, although a little grumpy about the cold weather.
5 years later
It wasn’t until 5 years later, when I was infected with the mosquito born West Nile Virus that I began to understand the intuitive nature of our relationship.
You see my nervous system was in survival mode since being attacked by the virus. After busy days I would have what I called a ‘replase’ from nervous system exhaustion. It was on such a day that I could feel my body starting to fatigue with a headache. I was tripping over Tina as I was getting ready for work. Actually she has been sticking to my side the last few days. I notice her looking up at me with those sweet brown eyes and pointy ears on alert. It is with a smile, that she’s telling me again, survival mode is not reality; Tina Real, headache not real! I tell Tina “I hear you… I hear you…I hear you!!” She turned around heading for her fleece bed circling several times to find the right comfy spot satisfied with herself providing me the message, again.
From that moment Tina was my guide, to stop a West Nile Virus relapse before it started, until she passed away in 2013.
Since I’ve become aware of this health intuition I could relate to my dog clients reality, to support them recovering from an injury and my journey as well.
Today I help owners..
Now I help owners work with their dogs special super powers for a stronger pawer pup.
The last 6 months I have noticed dogs are more aware of my presence through their body language. They will turn to look at me through a car window or try to cross the street to greet me while on a walk with their owners. Today as dogs and I pass each other on the street we silently acknowledge our communication and openly say ‘I hear you. I HEAR YOU!’.
Leave a comment about how you and your dog communicate.
Does your dog really need a workout routine?
I thought this was a crazy idea a few years ago, I mean they are dogs and they know how to take care of themselves. Right?
Dogs use to live in packs where they would play bow, weave, wrestle, and chase each other. This was more apparent to me as I watched a friend’s pack of dogs playing in the yard. Today dogs live in a household of one or maybe two dogs so they do not get the same play that their predecessors did. As a result they are becoming injured at an increasing rate when jumping off the couch, bed, or out of the car.
What can you do? If you are a pet parent or owner that truly wants to create a healthier dog then it is very simple steps you can take. Canine physical fitness is a new field in the animal world. It consist of people that have anything from a little training to lots of training and it is your job to research those people so your dog does not get injured in the process of helping them become stronger. You can find ‘My Story’ on another page.
You researched and found an canine fitness trainer your dog trust and relates to your needs. Give them a call to have a quick consult to see if it is a good fit to work together and then get started.
Here are 2 exercises that will help to start improving your dog’s health today.
- Front feet up or elevated stand- ask your dog to step up on a low solid step to shift their weight to the hind legs which will help strengthen their glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and gastroc muscles.
- Step over sticks- ask your dog to step over sticks on the ground as you are on walks. This will increase the proprioception in their feet to help them be more agile. Read more on proprioception on my previous article ‘Proprioception, What is it’
If you want video instruction jump over to our Facebook page for a video pinned at the top of the page on how to do the above exercises and more. These are easy to add to your routine on a daily walk by stepping up on a curb and holding it. These are simple ways to create a stronger canine and improve your animal human bond.
Leave us a comment on how your exercises are going.
Update: If your dog does sustain an injury they are recovering from, here is a good article on how to make both your lives easier during the healing time.