Sunday, April 22, 2012


With all the publicity about many dogs and cats being overweight, what better opportunity for a pet owner than to combine their own workout routines with something for their pet?

Fitness with Fido

Four-legged companions offer a lot of motivation for pet lovers who want to get in better shape.

By Gwendolyn Purdom

Becoming a runner wasn’t a New Year’s resolution for Shanda Adams—it was a way to get her dog, Riley, out of the house.  After moving to Alexandria in 2008, Adams started coming home to chewed-up baseboards courtesy of her then one-year-old black-Lab/border-collie mix. Riley needed a less destructive way to expend energy. Running, Adams decided, looked like the best option.  “My motto had always been only run if chased,” says Adams, a human-resource specialist at the Treasury Department. “I was not a runner at all.”

But Riley changed her attitude. The pair started slowly. They’d run two blocks, then walk two, adding a little distance each trip. When Adams and Riley joined a dog-friendly running group in early 2009, the three-mile course still seemed too hard. But having Riley by her side pushed her to stick with it: “I look at him and he’s all ready to go with his leash, and even if I don’t want to go, I go.”

When it comes to reaching New Year’s goals to get healthier and fitter, pet owners may have an advantage. Some, like Adams, have seen firsthand the positive impact pets can make. Others might be interested in research that points to the health benefits of interacting with pets, such as lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Studies have shown that people with heart disease have better survival rates if they interact with pets.

Sandra Barker, director of the Center for Human-Animal Interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University, says more research is needed, but studies by her team and others show that pets—and not just dogs—have a physiological effect on people.  “The interaction is mutually beneficial,” Barker says, referring to research indicating that people and animals are less stressed out when they play together and that they experience increased levels of oxytocin, a hormone that creates feelings of love and attachment.

Pet lovers are taking that kind of evidence and running with it. In Burbank, California, trainers at the Thank Dog! Bootcamp combine a cardio and weight workout for humans with obedience training for dogs. Fitness DVDs such as My Best Friend’s Workout demonstrate techniques for intensifying daily dog walks.

Jeff Lutton, a McLean resident who formed the running group that Adams and Riley belong to, was so convinced of the advantages of exercising with his golden retriever, Josie, that when Cardio Canine—a company that makes hands-free running leashes—went up for sale a few years ago, he bought it.  “Josie will stick her nose in my face when the alarm goes off,” Lutton says. “She insists that I get out of bed. And when it’s rainy or cold or windy, she doesn’t complain. She’s different from the typical running partner who might sleep in on you, might not be too excited, might skip it when the weather’s bad.”

On Saturday-morning runs with the Washington Humane Society’s People & Animals Cardio Klub (PACK), dogs from the nonprofit’s shelters get a chance to work out alongside volunteers.  Kevin Simpson, a Humane Society behaviorist who helps run the program, says the animals get just as much out of the exercise as the people: “When they come back from their excursions, they look like how the rest of us feel from doing our run. They seem so much more content. They’re not jittery—they just seem more at peace.”

Adams is more at peace, too, knowing that her morning runs with Riley have curbed the dog’s hyperactivity and anxiety, while her own energy has increased. In 2010, she completed her first Marine Corps Marathon—and she gives Riley all the credit.

Adapted from:

5 Ways To Exercise With Your Dog

There's no question that pets are good for our health, helping to do everything from lower blood pressure to lessen symptoms of anxiety and depression. One recent study from the American Psychological Association even found that just thinking about a cherished animal improved the emotional well-being of a pet owner just as much as thinking about a cherished friend did. But that's not all the research team found.

"We observed evidence that pet owners fared better, both in terms of well-being outcomes and individual differences, than non-owners on several dimensions," lead researcher of the study Allen R. McConnell of Miami University in Ohio said in a statement. "Specifically, pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extroverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners."

Pet ownership is one health behavior that we're getting right: 39 percent of American households include at least one dog, according to the 2011-2012 National Pet Owners Survey. But there's probably more you can get out of your friendship with Fido. A dog needs exercise and so do you -- why not do it together? Here are five ways to make a workout more fun for you and your pet:

Morning Walk…A brisk daily walk can do wonders for your immune system, cardiovascular health and weight management, but it can be hard to find the motivation to get moving each morning. Use your dog's unflagging energy and need to get outdoors as motivation to move quickly from your house to the park.

A recent Michigan State University study found that people who owned and walked dogs were 34 percent more likely to get the amount of daily exercise they need, according to a university release.  "The findings suggest public health campaigns that promote the responsible ownership of a dog along with the promotion of dog walking may represent a logical opportunity to increase physical activity," epidemiologist and study author Matthew Reeves said in a statement.

Agility Training…This organized, competitive sport, in which dogs are judged on speed and agility as they complete obstacle courses, is also a good workout for the trainer. In order to usher your pet through a new routine, you'll have to run alongside offering command words and treats for a job well done. Your dog will improve strength and coordination while you both get a cardiovascular workout.

Doga…Dog yoga, or doga, is a type of Hatha practice that incorporates massage, stretching and relaxation for both pet and pet owner. Many yoga enthusiasts dismiss the practice, but practitioners of doga say that a class can help them de-stress and feel connected to their pups. But even if dog yoga seems silly, a 2009 New York Times article on the practice pointed out that doga can have a motivating effect on reluctant exercisers.  Were it not for their pets, many people would never take daily walks in the park. By extension, it's easy to see how taking your dog to doga may be a surefire way to make certain you do yoga yourself.  More on this later....

Skijor…Skijor is an amalgam of cross-country skiing and mushing, in which a person cross-country skis with a dog harnessed to him. The team effort -- the dog pulls forward while the person uses skis and poles to keep momentum going -- results in great distance and speed.  A snow-free version of the sport, canicross, refers to a cross-country runner who is harnessed to a dog. Both are recognized by the International Sled Dog Racing Association and clubs exist all over the country and in Europe, where both sports are more popular.

Canine Freestyle Dancing…If the measurable weight loss of Dancing with the Stars contestants is any measure to go by, ballroom dancing is a major workout. But the species of your partner has nothing to do with burning calories and improving endurance, strength and flexibility -- so why not cha-cha with FiFi?  Several organizations, including the World Canine Freestyle Organization and Musical Dog Sport Association can help you find classes.  More on these later....

Adapted from:

Dogs Jumping Rope—World Record

Watch this short video for a special treat:

Wouldn't that be fun???

Dogs Make Good Bicycling Partners

By: Wade Shaddy

With a few precautions and a bit of conditioning, dogs are natural biking partners. Most dogs love to get out and run, but size and endurance are important considerations. Among the best biking partners: Akitas, Labradors, huskies and collies.

You can take your dog cycling with you at any age, except when he's a small puppy. Most well-conditioned 2- to 5-year-old dogs can maintain a speed of about 10 mph for about an hour or more – just right for trail riding. There are some dogs, however, that aren't designed to be out in the heat as much as other dogs, namely snub-nosed dogs such as the bulldog and the Pekingese.

Start your dog's conditioning program slowly, going just a few miles each day, building up distances gradually. If your dog is over 5 years old, he will have gained some weight and will begin to slow down, so ease up. Your dog can run with you for many more years, as long as you don't overdo it. If your dog lies down during training or lags behind at a speed under 5 mph, end the session immediately. Keep in mind, too, that we're talking trail riding here. If you're going to be riding on pavement or in traffic, do the dog a favor – and leave her home.

Running is the essence of life to dogs, and often they don't know when to quit. It's up to you to recognize signs of heat exhaustion. Sled-dog runners use the 120 rule: If the combined total of outside temperature plus humidity equals more than 120, they don't run their dogs. Follow their example.

While out on the trail, "watch for lethargy, disorientation and sloppy foot movements" says Tracy Howard, a veterinary technician. "If you see any of these signs, stop immediately, and get your dog water. A dog's normal temperature runs higher than that of humans – around 100 to 102.5 degrees. They only sweat in their pads and panting helps keep them cool. It would be a good idea to plan your trip near water so if the dog needs to cool off, he can just jump in.

Be on the lookout for hazards: poisonous plants, dangerous wildlife or other aggressive dogs. A major hazard in trail running is the thorn or grass awn, which is a small spear-shaped seed that can lodge in your dog's eyes, ears, nose, paws or puncture the skin.  "We see hundreds of dogs with grass or cheat awns in them every year," Howard says. "If it's in the paw or skin, you might be able to remove it with tweezers. If your dog starts limping during a run, stop immediately and inspect his foot, and pull out the offending awn."  If the awn lodges in the nose or eyes, things get more complicated, says Howard. "If your dog starts sneezing uncontrollably or scratching at his ears and continues for several hours, take him to the vet."

Most dogs can run for years without any trouble, but a common injury, known as a torn anterior or cranial cruciate ligament, can occur in active dogs. If your dog shows signs of soreness or has trouble getting to his feet, take him to the vet. The most common running-related injuries are worn down pads. You can avoid this by using Pad Guard®, a spray that is applied directly to your dog's feet. It forms a protective barrier and works better than booties.

Lastly, always observe the courtesy rules of the trail.  Keep your dog under control at all times, especially around other hikers and bikers...they may not like dogs as much as you do.

Adapted from:

Hiking with Your Dog
By: Dr. Douglas Brum

Hiking with your dog can be one of the most joyful experiences of pet ownership. Besides being great exercise, it's a good way to spend quality time with your canine chum. Taking a walk in the woods is a simple thing to do, but you can maximize your enjoyment and your dog's safety by preparing ahead of time.

• Before going hiking, check for any restrictions in the area. For example, national parks and some state parks do not permit dogs on hiking trails. Most parks also require your pet to be on a leash, unless you are in a designated doggie park. Leash walking is always a safer option as it decreases the chance your pet will wander into trouble. Unusual sights, sounds and smells may tempt the unleashed dog to stray deeper into the woods or bring about encounters with other animals that could cause a confrontation.

Make sure your pet is up to date on all of his vaccinations. In some areas of the country, it might be wise to vaccinate for Lyme disease as well. Your dog should also wear a collar with clear and current identification tags. Microchipping is another option that many pet owners are choosing.

• Avoid areas that permit hunting. Bright colors for you, and even a bright colored collar and vest for your dog would be a good idea, in case you accidentally wander into a hunting area.

• Make sure you know the limitations for you and your dog. If you are used to long hikes up tough terrain, but your dog is not, take it slow. Start with easier walks and work up to the tough ones. For smaller or older animals, certain strenuous hikes might better be skipped. For animals with arthritis or medical conditions, consulting your veterinarian first is a good idea. Even animals that are normally active might have problems on rough terrain. Pad abrasions, cuts, and ulcerations are common occurrences if your pet's pads are not adapted to walking on more abrasive surfaces. Pad protecting "booties" are commercially available that can help protect sensitive paws if needed for rough terrain or snow and ice.

• Take rest breaks as needed and don't forget to bring food or snacks for yourself and your dog. Better than sharing your sandwich, bring along a dog treat or a meal specifically for your dog. Water is also important. Ideally, dogs should not drink from the ponds or small streams along the trail, for the same reasons people should not. Poor sanitation, and increasing development has led to increased incidence of contracting diseases. Giardia cysts occur in dogs and people, and can cause significant gastrointestinal distress and diarrhea. Practically speaking, it may be impossible to prevent your dog from drinking some water on the trail, but being prepared and taking some precautions will decrease the chance of illness. Some dogs may be large and strong enough to even carry their own rations, and many different types of "dog backpacks" are available for purchase. A dog with his own backpack adds another dimension of fun on the trail.

• It is always a good idea to pack some emergency supplies for both you and your pet. A small first aid kit for dogs should contain a few important items. Bandage materials, tape and a disinfectant (e.g. hydrogen peroxide) are included for cleaning and wrapping wounds. Antibiotic (e.g. Neosporin®) and cortisone creams are useful for cuts and insect bites respectively. Diphenhydramine (check with your veterinarian for a dosage for your dog) is useful for severe reactions to insect stings or hypersensitivities. Consider taking an anti-inflammatory, like aspirin, for use after a long days' hike. Just like people, after a long day hiking, many dogs may be sore the next day. Anti-inflammatories will help with a quicker recovery. Check with your veterinarian for the right dose and best anti-inflammatory for your pet.

• Be considerate to others on the trail by keeping the environment clean, and leaving it the way you found it. If your dog messes on the trail, clean it up and pack it out. This is the best way to ensure the continued availability of hiking trails to you and your dog. If this is not possible, at the very least, make sure the stool is moved away from the trail.

• In most areas of the country, it is advisable that your dog be on heartworm preventative medication, especially when hiking in mosquito-infested woods. Insect repellents that are safe for pets are also available and may be very useful at certain times of the year. It is also a good idea for dogs to be on a flea and tick preventative when out in the woods. Fleas may cause skin problems and allergies, and ticks may cause infections and spread disease. Prevention using the many products available through your veterinarian is the best defense.

Taking the time to do a little planning ahead will ensure a happier and more fulfilling hiking experience...truer words were never spoken.

Adapted from:

Rollerblading with Your Dog

Some in-line skate enthusiasts live for the mornings when they can leash up their pooch and go for a nice sprint together along a shaded park path. Not only is it great exercise, but the dog is often delighted that their human buddy can keep up with them.

Other in-line skaters, however, see a sport fraught with danger. Without complete control over the skates and the dog, someone rollerblading with Rover could turn into a barreling, 30-mile-an-hour hazard to themselves and other pedestrians.

Among rollerblading enthusiasts, there is no solid consensus over whether dogs and skating mix. But all agree that no one should attempt it unless they are highly skilled skaters and have confidence in their dog's obedience training. They further agree that skating with dogs should only be done in an area without vehicles, and at a time when fewer people are about.

"It looks fun, but unless you have complete control over yourself and your dog, it's pretty dangerous and unpredictable," notes Noelle Robichon, a certified in-line skate instructor from Minneapolis.  Robichon is one enthusiast who believes canines and skates don't go together. "If he suddenly takes off to the right or left, you can trip and injure yourself and the dog," she said. The leash can trip up the skater, who may have to instantly choose between falling on the pavement and being hurt, or falling on and injuring their dog.

Innocent bystanders are at risk as well. Pedestrians may not be aware that a human/canine package is rumbling towards them from behind, or may not be able to get out of the way fast enough.  Having Rover suddenly take off after a small animal or object is probably one of the bigger dangers people face, notes Kalinda Mathis, executive director of the International In-line Skating Association. The IISA is an organization comprising manufacturers and skaters to promote the sport and safety.

Mathis says the IISA doesn't have a position on dogs and skating; in fact, she enjoys skating with her chow dog in the mornings. But she agrees that the exercise poses a danger to the public, the skater and the dog unless adequate precautions are taken.

One of the primary precautions is skill level. Preferably, you've taken lessons from a certified instructor on how to avoid obstacles and skating has become an instinctive, second-nature activity to you. Even the smallest obstacles – pebbles, cracks in the pavement, etc. – can trip you if you're not skilled.

• Always wear appropriate protective gear: a helmet, wrist guards, knee and elbow pads. This is important for skilled skaters to remember. Studies have shown that most injuries are sustained by overconfident, under-prepared veterans.

• Follow the SLAP guidelines: skate smart, legal, alert and polite. This includes wearing protective gear, obeying traffic regulations, avoiding hazards and traffic, and yielding to pedestrians. Always announce your intention by saying "passing on your left."

• Use a slightly longer leash than normal. The leash should be long enough to give you warning if your dog takes off in an unexpected direction, but not so long as to put him in danger before you can save him.

• A harness leash is best to avoid choking your dog in case you have to pull in an emergency.

Another primary precaution is location and time. You should only skate in areas devoid of traffic at times when people are less likely to be around. Mathis, a 15-year veteran and an instructor, says she skates with her dog in a park in the morning.

A further precaution is the dog's training. A dog should be trained to stop reliably on command. Many skaters are tripped by the leash when their dog suddenly goes left or right.

Watch Out for Your Dog

Rover may be eager to go for an extended romp, but you have to know when to say when.

• Keep your dog hydrated.
• Work up to a level you're both comfortable with.
• If it's hot, keep the run very short or don't take him with you.
• Dogs perspire through their feet; if the ground is hot, he won't be able to cool down.
• Running on pavement is hard on your dog's joints. If he shows discomfort, stop.

One way to reduce the risk of injury to your dog is off-road rollerblading. This is recommended by enthusiasts such as Lidia Dale-Mesaros, who is co-owner of  "On soft ground, there's more 'give' for the dog," she said. offers several products for off-road rollerblading, including a quick-release mechanism for the skater and jell-filled boots for the dogs. The quick-release mechanism, called Bail-Out, allows an owner to detach from the dog if he runs in an unexpected direction.

The product carries its own risks; if used in a high-traffic area, the dog is no longer in control of the owner. Again, obedience and training are paramount. The jell-filled boots are designed to help keep the dog's feet cool. Dale-Mesaros says they are not designed as shock absorbers.

If your dog shows signs of soreness or trouble getting to his feet, take him to the vet. The most common running-related injuries are worn-down pads. You can help avoid this by using Pad Guard, a spray that is applied directly to your dog's feet. It forms a protective barrier and works better than booties.

This all seems to be a bit problematic for the rollerblader AND the very careful doing this.

Adapted from:

Bonding With Their Downward-Facing Humans

Doga combines massage and meditation with gentle stretching for dogs and their owners


In Chicago, Kristyn Caliendo does forward-bends with a Jack Russell Terrier draped around her neck. In Manhattan, Grace Yang strikes a warrior pose while balancing a Shih Tzu on her thigh. And in Seattle, Chantale Stiller-Anderson practices an asana that requires side-stretching across a 52-pound Vizsla.

Call it a yogic twist: Downward-facing dog is no longer just for humans.

Ludicrous? Possibly. Grist for anyone who thinks that dog-owners have taken yoga too far? Perhaps. But nationwide, classes of doga — yoga with dogs, as it is called — are increasing in number and popularity. Since Ms. Caliendo, a certified yoga instructor in Chicago, began to teach doga less than one year ago, her classes have doubled in size.

Not everyone in the yoga community is comfortable with this.

“Doga runs the risk of trivializing yoga by turning a 2,500-year-old practice into a fad,” said Julie Lawrence, 60, a yoga instructor and studio owner in Portland, Ore. “To live in harmony with all beings, including dogs, is a truly yogic principle. But yoga class may not be the most appropriate way to express this.”

Appropriate or not, this is how it works: Doga combines massage and meditation with gentle stretching for dogs and their human partners. In chaturanga, dogs sit with their front paws in the air while their human partners provide support. In an “upward-paw pose,” or sun salutation, owners lift dogs onto their hind legs. In a resting pose, the person reclines, with legs slightly bent over the dog’s torso, bolster-style, to relieve pressure on the spine.

Doga instructors are not required to complete certification, though teacher training seminars do exist, like ones taught by Brenda Bryan, 43, a yoga and doga instructor in Seattle who has just written a book on the subject. In general, instructors learn informally by sharing techniques. Guiding these techniques is an agreed-upon, though not officially stated, philosophy: Because dogs are pack animals, they are a natural match for yoga’s emphasis on union and connection with other beings.

Ms. Yang, 39, a financial analyst in Manhattan, has gone to doga classes for more than a year. Though she says that her 10-pound Shih Tzu, Sophie, has helped deepen her stretches by providing extra weight, the main reason she goes is to bond with her dog. “I always leave with a smile,” she said.

Such post-doga smiles run about $15 to $25 a class. Whether this is a bargain or overpriced depends on how — and why — the class is taught. Paula Apro, 40, of Eastford, Conn., owner of an online yoga retail store, tried a class near her home last summer.

“A stuffed animal — but not even a dog-shaped stuffed animal — was used by the instructor,” she said. Owners struggled to get their very real dogs to replicate the stuffed-animal poses, she said, and bags of treats were used to get the dogs to change positions. “It was lunacy,” Ms. Apro recalled. “Peanuts, my retired racer greyhound, didn’t participate at all. Instead, I did downward-facing dog while he ate the most treats he’s ever had in a 60-minute period.”

Ms. Caliendo said such tales are the exception. She offers her class in conjunction with the Royal Treatment Veterinary Spa in Chicago, which specializes in holistic animal care. “In no way is doga for teaching dogs silly tricks,” she said. “The dogs are never manipulated into any type of pose.”

Ms. Caliendo’s classes focus on poses and massage for dogs aimed at improving digestion and heart function, and poses for people that emphasize stress reduction and feeling well.

Ms. Bryan, the author in Seattle, said: “It’s a new field so there can be confusion about what doga is and isn’t.” Her classes are loosely structured and filled with humor. “Who cares if everybody’s facing the same direction and doing exactly the same thing?” she said. “Besides, laughing is spiritual.”

Ms. Bryan said some of her earliest classes were a challenge. “I was brand new to this, and in one class, this dog just wouldn’t stop barking,” she said. “There I was, trying desperately to look tranquil and calm, but inside I was, like, ‘Shut up!’ That was the turning point for me. I mean, this was a dog. Plus, he was having the best time of his life.”

Kari Harendorf, 38, teaches doga in Manhattan. “Jobs are disappearing,” she said. “Mortgage payments are looming. Change is everywhere, but your dog remains steadfast. So, why not spend time together?”

Ms. Harendorf links yoga to reductions in stress hormones, like cortisol, and blood pressure. “People always ask me, ‘Do dogs need yoga?’ ” she said. “I say, ‘No, you need yoga. But your dog needs your attention, and bonding with your pet is good for your health.’ ”

She is saying something many dog owners already know: Were it not for their pets, many people would never take daily walks in the park. By extension, it’s easy to see how taking your dog to doga may be a surefire way to make certain you do yoga yourself.

Adapted from:

The North American Dog Agility Council (NADAC) was formed in 1993 to provide North American dogs and their handlers with a fast, safe and enjoyable form of the sport of dog agility. NADAC sanctions agility trials sponsored by affiliated clubs.

The purpose of a NADAC agility trial is to demonstrate the ability of a dog and its handler to work as a smoothly functioning team. With separate class divisions for Veterans and Junior Handlers and a variety of games, NADAC dog agility offers something for everyone!  Try both of these web sites for more information:

The Mission of the Musical Dog Sport Association is to advance the sport of canine freestyle and to share the joy of the canine/human bond achieved through positive training, enhanced by the artistry of music and choreography. Created by freestylers for freestylers, the MDSA defines Canine Freestyle as a dog sport in which training, teamwork, music and movement combine to create an artistic, choreographed performance highlighting the canine partner in a manner that celebrates the unique qualities of each individual dog. It is built upon the foundation of a positive working relationship of a dog and handler team. The MDSA is proud to continue the tradition of growth and exploration of this new sport. We look forward to working in harmony with all as we strive towards our common goal to bring the wonder of Canine Freestyle and the joy of the dog and handler bond to even more people.

The LA Dodgers continue to have the best record in the National League following a 6-game road trip.  Our centerfielder, Matt Kemp, has been really pounding the ball for some awesome offensive stats.

The San Antonio Spurs are trying to sew up home court advantage throughout the playoffs in the NBA...which will end its regular season this week.


"There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter."  Rachel Carson, author

Now that spring and, in some areas, summer have arrived, the opportunity to get outside with your pooch and do some type of exercise is staring you in the face.  Carpe diem!  You and your pooch can rest when finished....

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~

No comments:

Post a Comment