Human-dog exercise classes are springing up all over. They’re a fun way for you and your dog to stay fit together, both physically and mentally.
Getting and staying fit can be challenging. And if you have trouble getting enough exercise, your dog probably does too, and that’s not healthy for either of you. Dogs also need mental stimulation along with physical activity to keep them well and happy. The good news is that many people are discovering their dogs make excellent workout companions, and the proof can be found in the number of “doggie and me” fitness classes and facilities that are popping up across North America.
Dogs make great workout companions
A human/dog fitness class allows you to take care of your own physical health and your dog’s at the same time. “Both you and the dog get exercise together and come home happy and fulfilled, rather than you coming back from the gym and being too tired to walk the dog,” says Heidi Bechtold of Complete K9 Services, a facility in the Kitchener-Waterloo area of Ontario that offers one-hour 6Legs to Fitness outdoor workouts for people and their dogs.
Heidi adds that dogs can also act as great motivators for their people to get and stay active. “Too often, people choose to go to the gym or a workout class over walking their dogs because they think they will get more out of it. But in reality, your dog can be an amazing workout partner, pushing you and encouraging you to keep going by wanting to do more.” Dogs are always eager to head out the door, and they never cancel on you at the last minute or complain they’re too tired from a long workday. This canine energy can be contagious, especially if you’re feeling a little sluggish yourself.
Tricia Montgomery, the founder of K9 Fit Club in Hinsdale, Illinois, adds that a lot of exercises she has people doing are ones they typically hate doing in a gym but love doing with their dogs. “Playing with a dog can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which can provide a calming and relaxing feeling in his owner,” she says.
What do dog/human fitness classes involve?
“Doggie and me” fitness classes most often take place outdoors, if the weather is clear and not too hot or cold, but they may also be indoors, depending on the facility. The classes and programs vary in the types of exercise and activities they offer.
- Classes often combine strength training for people with some basic obedience training and/or a physical/mental workout for dogs. Some classes see people doing push-ups, lunges, squats, sit-ups and planks while their dogs practice obedience by lying or sitting down. Even though the dogs aren’t physically active in these types of exercises, they’re getting training practice and enjoying bonding time with their people.
- Cardio exercises incorporate dogs into the physical activity and challenge them with maneuvers such as running around cones or over obstacles, making sure both dogs and people go home “dog-tired”.
- Leash Your Fitness in San Diego, California offers a wide range of outdoor exercises and activities such as hiking, surfing, kayaking, yoga, trail running, upper and lower body classes and boot camp classes, all for people and their dogs.
- Tricia says some of the favorite exercises at K9 Fit Club include Mutt-Mountain Climbing, in which people do mountain-climbing exercises while their dogs practice obedience by sitting or standing behind or in front of them, getting pats between sets.
- Wagging Wall Sits are another crowd favorite, Tricia says. In this exercise, you push your hips, back and shoulders into a wall and slowly walk your feet out as your upper body sinks to the floor. Your dog’s paws can be placed on your knees for added resistance, while giving your dog a chance to stretch and exercise the muscles in his hind legs.
- Pups Pushing Peeps is a great cardio workout for both people and dogs, continues Tricia. In this exercise, you face your dog, bend your knees and lower your hips into a squat, then step backwards one foot at a time while holding the squat and encouraging your dog to follow, rewarding him with pats on the head when he’s within reach – with practice, you can quicken both your own steps and your dog’s for an increasingly active workout.
- At Fitness with Fido in St. Louis, Missouri, each class focuses on different part of your body and your dog’s, and includes activities such as strength and conditioning, yoga, Pilates, cardio and massage.
- Woof-fit in Toronto, Ontario combines fitness training with interactive games so that both you and your dog get physical and mental exercise and have fun in the process.
“Doggie and me” fitness classes are a relatively new phenomenon, but they’re becoming increasingly popular. “When we started seven-and-a-half years ago, people looked at us like we were crazy as they didn’t understand the concept,” says Dawn Celapino, owner of Leash Your Fitness. “We have proven that dogs not only get more obedient when they have a structured workout, but their people enjoy exercise more when their furry friends are with them. People refer to their pets as family and love to be with their dogs, so they are catching on that they can include Fido in all their fitness activities and still get a great workout.”