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Canine Fitness Coach: How to Develop a Quality Dog Exercise Program

Cavaletti – Enhances Proprioception, Strengthens Flexors, and Elongates Stride

Good exercise programs (whether they are for dogs or people) should be designed to address the specific needs and goals of that animal or individual.

The best canine fitness programs come from understanding how to establish parameters for frequency, speed, intensity, duration, environment, nutrition.

Skilled Canine Fitness Coaches or Trainers will also understand canine anatomy, physiology and behavior – which are essential components in designing a program your dog can benefit from and enjoy.

Here are the rules of thumb when establishing a good canine fitness program:

1) Control – Know Your Dogs Limits
Always start at a level that is well within your dog’s comfort zone and focus on controlled powerful movements. Set parameters – gradually increase reps, distance, speed and frequency with continued emphasis on quality canine movement. Many dog breeds have a lot of drive and many really want to please their owners – they are ready to go. They will go above and beyond what they may be conditioned to do.

Remember, excited and uncontrolled movements are not as purposeful and often lack good form. It is your job as a responsible owner to reign in the activity to work on movement and avoid injury.

2) Make It Fun – Cross Train
Strength and Cardio exercises can generally be done 3-5 times a week. Alternating days and muscle groups (forelimb one day, hind limbs another) will help keep you from over-training your dog. It is good to mix up activities – try balance discs, tunnels, fitness vests, cavaletti. Dogs that are over trained will lose motivation – remember it has to be fun!

3) Be Flexible – Daily Stretching/Massage
Stretching your dog AFTER exercise is important to maintain muscle resilience and flexibility. Stretching promotes good circulation, providing oxygen to overworked parts of the body, and improves the range of motion. It is also the most forgotten component of home exercise programs (for dogs and people).

4) Equipment – Tools of the Trade
While equipment is not always necessary for a canine fitness program, there are canine fitness tools that can definitely help you enhance a canine fitness program and provide consistency. The temptation with equipment is often to find the least expensive option. The focus should instead be on the safety for the dog and choosing product that enhances and promotes the best quality movement.

5) Set Goals – Track Performance
Goals enable us to attach mindfulness to our activities and help us answer the question – why we do what we do. While admittedly, it is also healthy to enjoy spontaneity, a fitness goal can provide you with the structure you need to stick with a program for your dog. When setting a goal for your dog, be realistic (know your breed), write it down, and study the results.

About the Author: As a dedicated lifestyle athlete and co-inventor of the award winning DogTread® Dog Treadmill, K9FIT Vest™ and the StayBall® Balance Ball, Krista Wickens has a unique understanding of the mechanics of fitness for both the human and canine body. As a former fitness product manager, Krista created best-selling products used by the biggest names in Human Fitness for such iconic brands as Reebok, Gold’s Gym and NordicTrack. Her love for animals, particularly dogs started on a Montana Cattle Ranch where she was raised. She trained her first dog Bear at the age of 7. These experiences have led to the development of a unique line of canine fitness products that are designed from a dog’s perspective and take into account the unique aspects of canine behavior and anatomy. Krista is also the co-author and producer of Treading for Dogs DVD and 30-day Dog Treadmill Training Program, please email for more information.

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