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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.

K9 Fitness Works is creating stronger dog human bonds through canine physical fitness. We are proud to help owners feel more confident in the quality of life for their pawer pup!

Expert Canine Fitness Trainer

K9 Fitness Works is focused on educating the community on healthy dogs through our blog and soon to be membership site with videos on how to create a stronger core and more in your dog.  We enjoy speaking at club events to share personal dog knowledge to decrease knee and spine injuries in dogs.

K9 Fitness tutorial and knowledgebase articles

Fitness is easy to do daily and is natural to humans and dogs.  Over the centuries we have gotten lazy! Humans and dogs have sat on the couch more then hiking the mountains, unless you live in Colorado.  Even those in Colorado sit at a desk most of the day and the dog sit on the couch most of the day leaving them both susceptible to injury when on a hike up the mountain.  There are simple daily exercises you can both do to decrease injury and create a stronger bond together.

What are your most pressing questions?

Let K9 Fitness Works know what you are looking for in the health of your pet.  What are your concern’s when it comes to the quality of life for your dog?  What do you want to achieve in competition?  Comment below so we can share our knowledge to help you and your dog grow stronger for a better community!