There is a common problem in my house: my husband and I are busy. We both have careers that require more of our attention than a regular 9-to-5 job, but we also have two dogs that require a lot of daily exercise. So when we end our workdays, we are often left with the decision of “exercise our dogs or exercise ourselves?” The pups usually win and we end up at the dog park where they frolic around and we sit on a bench and watch them.
Finding a way to get everyone a workout at the same time has been a challenge. Sure, we’ve tried running with the dogs (I tripped over my Rat Terrier once when he darted in front of me on a gravel trail and have the deep scar on my knee to prove it) and we do take a lot of walks, but neither of us gets enough cardio out of the experience. It’s a common issue in our household of who gets to be in shape – the dogs or the humans?
To combat this issue, I began searching for a new alternative. I stumbled upon a human/dog training class called Feet & Paws Fitness and immediately signed up. It’s taught by a certified fitness and dog trainer and is offered in the mornings and evenings at an outdoor park in Santa Monica, California.
Going in, I was skeptical. I had heard about these doggie boot camp classes but had no idea how I would succeed in getting my dogs to be calm enough to focus on exercising with me. I was sure the whole class would be devoted to me chasing my dogs around and my workout would suffer. Fortunately, that was far from the case.
The Warm Up
I joined trainer Tracy James for an evening class and brought along my Rat Terrier, Rocky, my Doberman, Lyla, and my husband. Prior to arriving, instructions were e-mailed to all participants. They told us to wear athletic shoes and to bring pea-sized dog treats, water and a dog bowl for our dogs. They also required our dogs to be on a six-foot leash and to have a flat-buckle collar or harness on.
Once on site, we unpacked our essentials and met with James. She began setting up a course, which included stations marked with cones and agility jumps. Then, class began. Our first assignment was to jog a few laps around the park with our dogs near our side. Easy enough.
After that, we got into the workout. James set up various stations and assigned each human-dog pairing to head to a certain corner of the park. We were instructed to tell our dogs to “sit” or “lie down” and “stay” while we engaged in various forms of exercise. One station did squats, another did jumping jacks, and the others did burpees (or squat thrust) and mountain climbers (running in place from the plank position). The dogs sat there and watched us, all wondering what was going on. We rewarded them with treats and praise for holding their positions while we all worked out.
After finishing a station, James instructed us to shift one to the right. We did this until we went through all of the various stations on site.
The Agility Training
Next, we ran a few more laps with the dogs. By this time, the dogs had warmed up and were a bit more focused, which was apparently the idea. I had also broken a decent sweat.
We went to the middle of the lawn where we ran our dogs up and down a field and commanded them to go over and under a series of jumps. James adjusted these jumps accordingly due to the height and size of our dogs. Lyla was the biggest dog in the class, so she had her own series of super tall jumps while my rat terrier had smaller ones.
One by one, the dogs and their owners ran through the course and the dogs sailed over the jumps. If your dog failed to hop over a jump (Rocky got lazy and went around a jump once or twice), you had to go back to the beginning and run them through the course again (we got a few extra rounds on that one).
Following the jumping series, we moved into a series where we focused on teaching our dogs a few tricks. James, for instance, helped my husband guide Lyla “around” a cone. She loved learning that and she caught on quickly, which meant she was rewarded with a plethora of treats.
Next, we did a few more rotations with squats and jumping jacks. Rocky joined for this part of class and even squatted down himself once or twice.
Following those exercises, James had us incorporate tricks with some cardio moves. For instance, we were instructed to go down into a side lunge and stick out our hands and have our dogs “touch” our palm with their noses as we shifted from side to side. Lyla was very engaged in this (again, more treats).
We ended the class with another round of jumps. One of the terrier mixes, a weekly regular, showed everyone how it’s done as he sailed above all of the obstacles without skipping any or taking down the bars. Another pup (who didn’t like to jump) and his owner opted to work on crawling under the cones instead.
The Cool Down
After a final lap around the park, we cooled down on individual yoga mats. The humans stretched while the dogs relaxed. Then, as an ultimate reward for behaving in class, James instructed us all to give our exercise companions a doggie massage.
The class was a success. It stimulated our dogs’ minds and worked us out in the process. We all thanked James for a wonderful fitness session and hopped in the car. The dogs passed out as soon as they hit the backseat and we all slept well that night. I’ve since seen advertisements and read articles for all sorts of these dog/human workout classes in various areas and fully plan on checking out more of them in the future.
I’d highly recommend them to any family that finds themselves in the same fitness rut that our household was in.
Nicole Pajer is a freelance writer who lives in Los Angeles with her husband, energetic Doberman, and rat terrier.