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Change Up Your Dog’s Exercise Routine

Does your dog play all day but never seems to get tired? Is she really fit enough for one of those long weekend hikes, or is she out for two days after? Maybe your aging hound is slowing down but you both still long to do things together. Or perhaps your loving pooch has been cleared recently from an accident or injury to resume “normal” activities.

What’s a responsible dog lover to do? Simple. Cross train your dog.

OK, maybe it’s not that simple, but the K9 Cross Train approach is pretty easy, really fun, and you can learn more about your dog than you ever thought you could.

K9 Cross Train is Happy Hounds Massages’ brand of canine fitness training. It’s a way to help your dog get and stay strong, active, alert, and more attentive. It’s similar to what you would do in an exercise program designed by a professional trainer. K9 Cross Train addresses your dog’s physicality, focusing on the essentials: strength, balance, flexibility, cardio, endurance, and focus. It also increases the bond you and your dog have since it requires a little bit of high-quality one-on-one time.

Think about the differences between you and your dog “working out.” You’ll do yoga, lift weights, go for a run, or take a H.I.I.T. (for high intensity interval training) class. You do increasingly harder things to help build and maintain muscle; to gain and maintain flexibility, agility and balance’ and to increase and maintain a high cardiovascular capacity. But your dog does the same things over and over again, and maybe not even regularly. Dogs build muscle, gain flexibility, balance and cardiovascular health the same way we do, but they don’t get the opportunity to do so. It’s not that long walks, running at the beach, playing fetch, swimming, and play dates aren’t good—they’re excellent and necessary for your dog’s overall health. But if you want your dog to be ready, willing, and able to keep up with you throughout her life, to be resilient to injury and age-related weaknesses, to be ready for whatever life throws at her, she’ll need strong muscles and joints. She’ll need to be flexible and agile, have great balance, and have good cardiovascular capacity, along with being mentally challenged and engaged. Science has learned that a progressively challenging exercise program that addresses each of these fitness needs is essential to a dog’s health, longevity, and quality of life.

So, we can’t have your dog lift weights, do yoga, or take a H.I.I.T. class, but we can do the next best thing. By using their body weight combined with movements that are natural to them, K9 Cross Training creates physical challenges—which is what exercises are—that help increase strength, flexibility, balance, and focus, and build the cardiovascular system. The types of exercises your dog does are designed to address their specific needs and goals. For example, a focus could be strengthening a leg that’s still weak after an injury or increasing body awareness and strengthening the core for paddle boarding. K9 Cross Train could also work on whole body conditioning, just concentrate on speeding up time for weave poles or the tunnel, or set weight loss as a goal.

But what if your dog is healthy, young, and strong? K9 Cross Train can keep him that way. Just like you, he needs a change-up to keep building and maintaining strength, flexibility, and balance. But your dog’s routine shouldn’t be random. If you want your dog to be strong and agile throughout his life, the trick is to keep challenging his muscles, balance, focus, and drive, and to keep him physically and mentally engaged.

No matter what stage of life your dog is in, an exercise plan can be developed that can help him live a healthier, happier, and fuller life. You want your dog by your side for as long as possible. K9 Cross Train is another tool you can use to do that. In K9 Cross Train, certain conditions require the treating veterinarian’s clearance or overview for your dog to participate in an exercise program.

Shelah Barr is the owner of Happy Hounds Massage, HappyHoundsMassage.com, and K9 Cross Train in San Francisco and is a consistent winner of the Beast of the Bay awards for Best Canine Massage Therapist. She holds multiple certifications in massage therapy and body work for both humans and animals, as well as in canine conditioning and fitness training. You can reach her at 415-298-6756 and email her at info@happyhoundsmassage.com or info@k9crosstrain.net. Follow her on Instagram: Happy Hounds Massage.

Main article photo by: Photo courtesy of Shelah Barr, Happy Hounds Massage