Sunday, June 26, 2011

Canine Pals can be your workout partners!

By Arden Moore Universal Uclick

Published: Tuesday, Jun. 21, 2011 - 12:00 am

Who says that exercise must be limited to sweating at the gym, fighting for an elliptical machine or failing to keep pace in a spinning class? Can't seem to muster the motivation to remove the clothes draped on the stationary bike in your bedroom to pedal a few miles?

The solution to staying in shape – and having fun – may be just a tail wag away. Check out the latest fitness trend: people-dog workout classes that focus on strength, flexibility and aerobics while unleashing plenty of fun for you and your dog.

By team
ing up with your best workout buddy – your dog – both of you can shed pounds, tone muscles and strengthen your connection.

"Regular exercise provides people and pets with physical and mental benefits," says Dr. Christine Zink, a veterinarian and professor of pathology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. "Exercise releases endorphins – feel-good chemicals that provide a sense of well-being. Exercise helps maintain proper weight, improves coordination and balance, and stabilizes joints to prevent arthritis and acute injuries."

These special workout programs also reinforce good doggy manners. They bring out play with a purpose, offering dogs the chance to master basic commands such as sit, stay, down and come in positive settings. For the past two years, I've regularly attended Leash Your Fitness classes in San Diego with my two dogs: Chipper, a 60-pound gold
en retriever/husky mix, and Cleo, a 12-pound terrier-poodle mix.

Our "gym" is a huge fenced grassy field. Certified personal-fitness trainer Dawn Celapino credits Jack, her energetic cairn terrier, for inspiring her to create Leash Your Fitness.
"I hated having to leave Jack at home while I went to a gym to teach or work out," says Celapino. "He loves running, hiking and swimming with me. I discovered a lot of other dog people looking for new ways to work out with their dogs."

During each hourlong class, people sprint, skip and even hop while their leashed dogs match their strides. Together, they leap over hurdles or weave through agility poles. At any time, Celapino will call out for people to drop into squats and get their dogs to maintain a down stance. Or we'll heed the command to do pushups, and then get our canine pals to perform doggy pushups – a series of quick sit-downs.

Since enrolling, I've shed 20 pounds and canceled my gym membership. My veterinarian has deemed my 8-year-old dogs to be at ideal weights.Before you enroll, get a physical examination from your physician and book a head-to-tail checkup for your dog with your veterinarian. Go at your own pace and set your goals to gradually get better.

Exercise fortifies your body against a host of medical woes, including obesity, diabetes and heart disease. It can also save money on doctor and veterinary bills. Regular workouts can provide your dog with a perfect setting to unleash pent-up energy and reduce the amount of doggy destructiveness in the home that's often due to sheer boredom.Try one of these classes – or work out with your dog on your own – and together you will give a welcomed, new meaning to the expression "dog tired."

To learn more about people-pet workouts, check out Leash Your Fitness .

Heed these cautionary signs

Be careful not to overexert your dog during workouts. Stop the activity and allow your dog to rest if it displays any of these signs:

• Drooping tongue

• Rapid panting – an early sign of overheating

• Hesitation – taking a few extra seconds before retrieving a tossed ball

• Weight shifting – using different muscle groups to offset soreness

• Staggered walking

• Muscle tremors

• Limping – check footpads for cuts and bruises and legs for sprains or muscle pulls

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