We’re about to get serious about getting in shape. Dog shape, that is. Jana, Oriel and even Wylie are about to take up the pooch equivalent of Pilates.
It’s called FitPAWS K9 Conditioning, and it is the latest, hippest way for dogs to work their core muscles and get in shape for serious athletics — agility, flyball, Frisbee, dock diving. Whatever your dog’s sport, our friend Val Minnis, who teaches FitPAWS and owns the K9BODYSHOP in Camarillo, California, says that the conditioning will help your dog achieve peak performance. That’s Val and Lexi, a buddy of Jana’s, demoing FitPAWS in the photos.
FitPAWS K9 Conditioning is also great for those weekend athletes who really feel stiff come Monday morning, for dogs who have had surgery or suffered an injury and even for elderly or arthritic dogs. According to Val, the gentle conditioning tones muscles without risking over-exertion or re-injury.
So what is FitPAWS, anyhow? Well, picture an oblong exercise ball. Picture your dog perched on top of it, perhaps doing puppy pushups (sit, down, sit, down …) or turning her head from side to side to ever-so-gently take treats from your hands. While doing these exercises, the dog’s weight is shifting and the dog is getting an excellent core workout just by maintaining her balance on the ball.
FitPAWS equipment comes in peanut, donut and egg shapes (this is supposed to get us in shape?), large and small discs, as well as other balance tools such as balance pads, pods, rocker boards, and more. Workouts can focus on one or more limbs (great for rehab after an injury) or overall conditioning.
During a typical session, Val uses treats, luring, and other encouragement to entice the dogs to place first one, then two or even all four paws onto a piece of equipment. Some dogs jump right on; others are very tentative. By the end of a session, though, nearly all the dogs are eager for more. K9 Conditioning sessions are intended to be fun for the dogs, and the dogs should be allowed to set the pace. Val never uses force (of course not; good trainers know that that’s never necessary) but encourages dogs to progress at their own pace.
The potential benefits go beyond improved athletic performance. Dogs can increase body awareness and confidence, increase their range of motion, improve balance and coordination and increase strength and flexibility. It also sounds like a great way for humans and dogs to have fun together. I’ll let you know what Jana, Oriel and Wylie think — just as soon as our equipment arrives!