Penny and I went for a walk in Darebin Parklands this evening and we both took the opportunity to improve our level of fitness (me by strolling around and her by racing all over the place, chasing balls and swimming in the creek). I think we’re incredibly lucky to have an open area at the bottom of our street where she is allowed to walk off-lead. I’m sure that if she had to toddle around the streets on a leash at my middle-aged pace, she’d be overweight and unfit.
We city dwellers have to work hard to find opportunities to keep our dogs fit. I’ve just read an article in the magazine ‘Dog World’ about finding places in a city to exercise a dog. The author, Liz Palika, is a dog-trainer, behavioural consultant and AKC CGC evaluator. She says that one of the advantages of living in a city is that the dog gets plenty of chances to experience different surfaces, such as grass, asphalt, sand and dirt – this will increase all-round confidence when faced with new experiences.
There’s also a photo of a dog in what seems to be a small backyard, standing up on its back legs to get a treat. The caption under the picture says that when a dog goes from a sit to a stand the rear legs and core muscles are exercised. Cindy, the teacher at K9 Kompany in Lilydale, where Penny and I go each week, also emphasises the usefulness of stretches for maintaining a dog’s health. It sounds rather like ‘Pilates for Dogs’, now that I think of it. This is the first time I’ve heard the expression ‘core muscles’ used for a dog, though I’m familiar with it in my own exercise classes.
The article also mentions an exercise routine that Cindy uses at the start of many classes. It’s ‘sit-ups’, doggy-style. Penny goes from a sit to a drop and up again. The writer of the article says that the idea is to get some speed on this so that the dog does lots of push-ups in a very short time. Hmmm… I’m pretty sure Penny’s ancestry involves lounging around in a Tibetan monastery looking to see if anyone is coming up the valley. She’s not easy to convince that she needs to do exercises quickly. Have to think about that one…
However, the exercise that sounds like fun is the one that Christine Zink, author of a book on dog fitness called ‘The Agility Advantage’, recommends. The dog gets into a beg position and then rises onto the back legs without putting the front legs down. It sounds as if it would be great for Penny because I sometimes think she is not using her rear legs strongly when she runs. We've practised it in the past with her rising up once to get a treat but haven't tried it as an repeated exercise.
The article is from the June 2008 edition of Dog World, volume 93, issue 6, and it’s on pages 36-40. At the DogWorld site there are five great tips for increasing a city dog’s fitness and general agility.