Erica C. Boling, PhD
Northeast K9 Conditioning
If you are a canine professional who is committed to your clients, it’s imperative that canine fitness become a part of your daily conversation and practice. I know this isn’t a top concern for many canine professionals, but it should be! Whether you offer such things as behavior modification, basic obedience, service dog training or even board and trains, the majority of your canine clients can benefit from exercise. In addition, placing an emphasis on canine fitness can even help you grow your business!
Why is it so important to speak with your clients about canine fitness? How might your clients, their dogs, and even your own business benefit? Keep reading! Below are five key reasons why canine professionals should not ignore fitness.
- The Obesity Epidemic: In the USA and in many other countries, we are currently experiencing an obesity epidemic when it comes to our pets. It’s a growing epidemic with tremendous negative health consequences. A study conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) in 2018 found that nearly 56% of the dogs in the United States are overweight or obese, and more than 90% of owners didn’t know that their pet was overweight. In 2016, another study revealed that insurance claims related to pet obesity conditions and diseases rose by 10% a in two-year period of time. The most common obesity related conditions include arthritis, live disease, diabetes, torn knee ligaments, diseased disc in the spine, chronic kidney disease and even heart failure. As one can easily see, there is a huge need to educate dog owners about the need to keep their dogs fit.
- Positive Effects on Behavior: Recent research has shown that dogs, like people, experience increased levels of endorphins after exercise which can have positive effects on their behavior (Raichlen et al., 2012). Exercise can help eliminate or decrease common behavioral problems that frustrate many dog owners. Many dogs suffering from anxiety, hyperactivity, and fearfulness can benefit from a regular exercise routine. The endorphin rush that occurs after high intensity endurance exercise helps our canine partners just as much as it helps us. Exercise isn’t necessarily the complete answer, but it many instances it can have positive effects on canine behavioral issues.
- Relationship and Confidence Building: If you interview individuals who have participated in a canine biathlon or similar event, you’ll quickly hear about the transformational effect that it had on the dog/handler relationship. Owners or handlers don’t have to compete or even be athletic themselves to reap the benefits, but there is something to be said for the team building that occurs when a dog and handler engage in fitness activities together. Whether walking together, maneuvering over obstacles together or simply engaging a dog in balance exercises at home in the living room, engaging in fitness activities together can strengthen the dog-human bond and enhance communication.
- Revenue Generation: Of course, we want our clients to have amazing relationships with their fit and healthy dogs. Imagine being able to also generate additional revenue for your business through canine fitness. From creating new courses to adding exercise upsells to your board and train programs, incorporating exercise and fitness to your current offerings can help you stand out from the competition. Instead of offering traditional training classes, spice it up by working through an obstacle course or integrate training into outdoor excursions. There are quick and easy ways to add cardio, strength, balance and body awareness exercises into what you are already doing.
As you ask your clients to increase their activities with their dogs, it’s important that you track what your clients are doing both with you and at home. Before increasing physical activity and adding intensity to the work that your clients are already doing, it’s imperative that you make sure all dogs are healthy and can engage in exercise. As you increase their activity, you want to make sure you do it gradually over time so that you don’t end up asking your clients to do too much too soon with their dogs, which can result in injury. In addition, being able to track progress is a great motivator to stay on track. Nothing is more satisfying to seeing actual improvement and growth over time, and one simple way that I do this is by using a canine fitness tracker.
An activity monitor worth looking at is BabelBark’sTM Health Monitor. It is a great way for you to work with your client because the activity tracker synchronizes to the client’s BabelBark app and data can be shared with you, the trainer, and even the veterinarian. When you consider the physical issues some of the dogs have, it can really make for a well-rounded assessment of the dog’s progress. With the trainer, client, and veterinarian reviewing the dog’s activity, setting goals and sticking to them becomes a team effort – and therefore, more successful.
So don’t wait! Start thinking of creative ways to help your clients’ dogs get more fit and active! In the end, everybody will benefit!
Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) https://petobesityprevention.org/2018
Raichlen, D. A. et al. (2012). Wired to run: Exercise-induced endocannabinoid signaling in humans and cursorial mammals with implications for the ‘runner’s high.’ The Journal of Experimental Biology, 215, 1331-1336. Retrieved from http://jeb.biologists.org/content/215/8/1331.full