Fitness With Fido: Taking Downward Dog to a New Level
Like most dog owners, having a dog by my side somehow makes anything (well most things) I do just seem better — and that includes exercise. Whether it be a trendy "warrior dash," peaceful yoga or a rigorous boot camp workout, dogs are partnering with their humans for a range of fitness experiences. This is good news on all fronts. Exercising with your dog keeps you motivated while at the same time providing an opportunity for fitness, mental stimulation and bonding time for the dog.
4 Ways to Work Out With Your Dog
It seems every time I scroll my Facebook feed, someone is posting photos from a "mud run" or "warrior dash." In 2000, the Canine2 Iron Dog Event was created as an extension of police dog training, where canine handlers and their partners had to maneuver through and over certain obstacles along a one-mile timed course. Over the years, the Canine2 Iron Dog Event has been redesigned to provide an opportunity for dog owners of any level to compete while supporting various non-profit organizations. The Canine2 Iron Dog Events provide a competitive and fun course with scramble ramps, weave poles, toy pits, tires, tubes, bridges, stairs and more that each team conquers together.
Connect & Run
Across the pond, Canicross, a relatively new sport originating in Europe as an off-season training for dog sledding, has become a popular stand-alone sport, especially in the UK. Canicross is the sport of running/walking off-road with your dog. The human wears a waist belt, which attaches via a short bungee line to a padded dog harness. Canicross is a close relative to bikejoring, where one cycles with their dog or skijoring where participants ski rather than run.
All of these cross-country workouts are fantastic ways to keep you and your dog fit, while enjoying the outdoors together. Cainicross is great for building strength and stamina as dogs are great pace setters. Dogs can be taught directional cues that help build confidence and increase their brainpower. And Canicross welcomes all breeds that love to run, not just sled dogs. It requires minimal equipment, can easily take place with a group of friends and is a great excuse to explore a park or trail. How to get started? Canicross harnesses and waist belts are easily found online.
Across the United States, one-stop fitness programs for dogs and their people are emerging. Not only dog friendly, but dog required, these fitness-style boot camps offer you and your dog a complete head-to-toe, head-to-tail workout. Programs like K9 Fit Club (born in Chicago) and Thank Dog! Boot Camp (created in L.A.) combine cardio, strength and stretching exercises for both humans and dogs — and even mix in some dog obedience training. Dogs are on-leash during these classes and need to have a good temperament and basic obedience skills. Classes are offered at beginner through advanced levels in cities including Chicago, St. Louis, Washington D.C., Raleigh-Durham, N.C., Tampa, Fla., Portland, Ore., Boston, Burbank, Calif., and Cleveland.
What’s left once you both are, ahem, dog tired? Downward facing dog takes on a whole new meaning in Doga, a form of yoga that combines stretching, massage and connecting with your dog. Doga allows you and your dog to relax and reconnect and some people even report that regular Doga practice results in their dog becoming more responsive to training. Check out these resources to get your doggy zen on: Doga: Yoga for Dogs, Barking Buddha, or Dogadog.com for dvds and free online videos.