DEAR DIDI: My little miniature pinscher is overweight. My husband and I can’t get out and walk her due to our own health issues. We have cut her food down but the vet says she needs more exercise. We are committed to finding a fun activity that we are capable of doing and that she will enjoy. Doggy Daycare every single day just isn’t cost effective and we don’t get to enjoy her if she is gone all day. Any suggestions? -Devoted Dog Owner
DEAR DEVOTED: Canine Fitness Training is the newest thing when we discuss whole health for our dogs! Dog parents struggle with feeding quality food, finding competent groomers, and a veterinarian that we can truly trust to take care of our best friend’s health needs. Modern canines have a very different lifestyle than they did just 20-30 years ago. We have brought them in the house, we crate train, obedience train, and pay for knee replacements. Many of them have become stellar couch potatoes. Obesity rates are not only on the rise in humans but also with our four-legged counterparts. Fitbit now makes an excellent product that monitors the same things in dogs: The FitBark. It helps me understand my client’s activity level, sleep patterns, and more. The FitBark has clearly shown how dogs may not be getting as much exercise as they thought.
The FitBark is giving us valuable data about dogs’ overall fitness levels and we are finding that many of them don’t do much during the week while their owners are at work, school, and running errands. Then they are expected to play intense fetch games with the Chuck-It on the weekends. Maybe once a month or less we ask them to go hiking, romp on the beach or participate in a Frisbee workshop. Weekend Warriors don’t exist just in the human realm. This is how people tend to get hurt. ACL’s get torn, heart issues pop up, joint pain rears its ugly head, and more. The same is true for our dogs. We can’t let them lay around most of the time and then suddenly expect them to run, jump and perform randomly.
Certified Canine Fitness Trainers or CCFTs are specially trained by the veterinary college at the University of Tennessee. They can conduct a fitness evaluation with your dog which will include a cardio fitness test on a treadmill, balance, flexibility, and strength. Then they can design a workout plan that is designed to help your dog with a variety of goals. Those goals range from weight loss to core strengthening for a particular sport. Fitness training for dogs is super fun, can be done indoors in a small space and typically only requires 15 minutes a day.
When a human enters into fitness training with a coach it is often seen as drudgery or a necessary evil. Canine Fitness Training, on the other hand, is basically trick training. All the dogs I have worked with just love it. They enjoy the challenges of balancing on the equipment and negotiating the obstacles set up for them. It builds confidence in a shy dog. It builds coordination and stamina in a high energy dog. It challenges the mind in all dogs. I frequently incorporate aspects of fitness training when I am working on behavior modification with my clients. A physically fit dog tends to be a mentally balanced dog and, therefore, a happy dog! Text 209-679-2033 if you would like to schedule a canine fitness evaluation for your pet.
Dierdra McElroy is a graduate of Texas A&M University and is an Animal Behaviorist specializing in canines. If you have questions or concerns about the pets in your house, you can get them answered through a future column of Didi’s Dogs. To ask your dog behavior question, email www.CaliforniaCanineUnleashed.com.