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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.  

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.

 

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.