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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?   

Human performing squat with dog giving high five.
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. 

Tina and Jenn on the beach

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.  

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.

 

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.

unstable beach terrain

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.

  1. 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.
Different terrain
  1. 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.
step overs

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.