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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.

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. 

Sim and Sadie walking on the beach.

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.

I Hear You Tina!

Stronger Bond

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.