Work and family schedules, exercise goals, dog-training classes—it is challenging to fit in time for yourself, your family and your dog. But you can integrate four paws and two feet into a fun exercise program—Dog Dynamics’ 6 Paws Fitness—that includes obedience training, stretching, cardio, balance-building, and strength training for both human and dog. It’s fun, and nurtures the human-to-dog bond.
First, it is important to make sure your dog is physically ready. If your dog is overweight, recovering from an injury or illness, or is elderly, consult with your veterinarian before proceeding. Once cleared, get with the program by gathering a few simple items, such as a yoga mat, a leash and a collar, training treats, and music.
Start by warming up with your dog. With a treat in your hand, lure your dog to perform a spin in one direction, then again in the other, and reward after each spin. This loosens up your dog’s neck muscles and joints. Pay attention to how you are bending over your dog. Keep a slight bend in your knees and engage your abdominal muscles to support your back. After three spins in each direction, encourage your dog to quickly walk, or lightly jog, with you for 50 feet to 100 feet, and then return to your starting point.
Next, tether your dog to a dumbbell or a secure structure to practice the “wait” command while you warm up your upper body. Stretch your arms sideways, shoulder high and circle your arms 10 times forwards and 10 times backwards. Reward your dog with a treat for waiting before you change direction. To encourage your dog not to strain on the end of the leash, give your dog the treat where the handle of the leash is tethered. Repeat three times in each direction.
While your dog is still tethered, walk 20 feet to 50 feet in front of your dog and lay down your yoga mat. Place a treat on the mat. Return to your dog, untether your dog, and hold the leash. Tell your dog “go” and run, or walk as fast as you can, to try to beat your dog to the treat. Let your dog get the reward on the yoga mat as soon as he or she arrives, even if you get there first. If your dog is very fast, you may need to drop the leash, or get a head start before you say “go.” Return to the starting point and repeat two more times. You can gradually increase the distance to the yoga mat once your dog understands the game and you are ready for a longer sprint. If your dog is toy motivated, you can place a toy on the mat instead of food. Occasionally grab the treat or toy before your dog gets to it to build motivation, but always end the session with your dog the winner.
In this one simple exercise, you have worked on cardio and strength training, the obedience exercises “wait,” “go,” “place,” and perhaps best of all, you have had fun together.
Bonnie Brown-Cali is the owner of Dog Dynamics, Inc. (DogDynamics.org) and was voted Best Private Trainer—East Bay in Bay Woof’s 2016 Beast of the Bay awards. She has professionally trained dogs since 1990 and continues to expand her diverse canine education experience by attending annual conferences, behavioral workshops, and seminars in the United States and abroad. She lives in the East Bay hills with her family, a pack of dogs, and a flock of chickens. Interested in learning more? Visit DogDynamics.org.
Main article photo by: Photo of Quill courtesy Bonnie Brown-Cali