BY JAMIE POPPER
New Year’s resolutions have gone to the dogs! It’s a new year with fresh ideas and new goals. You’re not the only one who can benefit from a New Year’s resolution or two. Many dog owners take this time to reflect on the previous year and set new goals for their companions. While some owners plan goals for a competition season in their dog sport of choice, others vow to help their dogs lose a couple of pounds. This year, why not set a fitness goal for your dogs and encourage the same from your customers and staff?
Canine Conditioning and Fitness is a growing trend for both pet dog and competitive sport dog owners alike. Programs such as the University of Tennessee’s Certified Canine Fitness Trainer program educate dog care professionals such as trainers and veterinarians on how to craft fitness programs for canines. Other programs, such as the American Kennel Club FITDOG program, encourage dog owners to get out and be more active with their dogs. The AKC even awards an AKC FITDOG designation to owners who walk their dogs a minimum of three miles per week regularly for three months.
Want to help your customers get started on the right foot? The right equipment makes fitness easy. Consider scheduling a monthly pack walk to connect with them on a regular basis and provide fitness tips.
Fitness can be as simple as a regular walking program, and when engaging in one, be sure to outfit your customers with comfortable and safe gear. Harnesses designed for pulling, such as sled dog harnesses, can also be used for bikejoring or canicross. Bikejoring and canicross are dog-powered sports where the dog plays an active role in pulling the handler or bike along the path. These harness designs allow for full freedom of movement and are comfortable for the dog to pull in.
For dogs walking in more of a city environment, help your customers get a handle on their walks. The No. 1 complaint from dog owners regarding leash walking is that their dog pulls. Outfitting them with proper leashes and harnesses can resolve pulling issues and lead to a more enjoyable walk. Front attachment, or “no-pull” harnesses, work by giving the dog owner more leverage over their dog. By connecting the leash to the front of the dog, the handler is better able to redirect the dog’s attention back to them when the dog gets distracted and pulls.
Not all front-attachment harnesses are designed equally. Look for harnesses that have a Y-shaped front. When exercising your dog, form matters; harnesses that have straps that cut across the shoulder impede movement and alter the dog’s gait. Look for designs like Blue-9’s Balance Harness, which includes adjustment points for the top and chest strap as well. By fitting the girth strap out of the elbow area, you minimize the risk of chaffing.
Ready to take your walks to the next level? Weighted vests or backpacks are a great way to increase the exercise challenge for your athlete. Caution owners to start slow, and build up weight overtime. Ten percent of the dog’s body weight is a good starting point for healthy dogs. Look at designs such as the Ruffwear Singletrak, which holds the weight close to the dog’s body and has a Y-shaped front.
Too cold to go outside? Indoor exercise products such as Blue-9’s KLIMB Canine Conditioning Kit or FitPAWS balance equipment can provide an at-home gym for your dog. The KLIMB Conditioning Kit includes an instructional video with more than 30 exercises. When starting with balance equipment, choose low-balance challenge props such as a Balance Disc or FitBone from FitPAWS. Fitness exercises like puppy pushups and doggy squats work both the dog’s brain and body. Just 10 minutes of fitness skills like this can be enough to tire your pup.
When planning your New Year’s resolutions, don’t forget to include your dog. Happy training!