By Sophia Yin, DVM, MS
Every year members of the Golden Valley Harrier Running Club, to which I belong, start the New Year with a major fat burning event – an 18+ mile trail run. Well, I ventured on this run two years ago with Jonesy, my Jack Russell Terrier. He fared well. In fact, he probably ran 20 miles and had plenty of energy the rest of the day for other activities such as fetch. My legs however, were sore for days due to the several miles of downhill running right at the start. That and the fact that the longest I’d run in months was 10 miles.
This year after running a total of about 10 times in the last 6 months I decided I still wanted to start the year off on a good note in both the exercise and quality dog-time departments. I’d had to take a break from running due to bunion surgery followed by a related knee injury and had been doing other boring exercises to try to keep in shape—deep water running, rowing, Yuk!, Crossfit—fun but not the calorie burn of running. In the Jonesy department I’d spent 2010 traveling a lot or working with “visitor” dogs in my house meaning that Jonesy didn’t get enough dedicated time to himself. As a result, we are both getting out of shape. So I decided that that today would be the perfect day to start to get fit with my dog.
The New Year’s Day Workout Routine
First, we slept in. No thanks to Dante, the Bengal cat though. Around 4:00 am he started yowling frantically in Bengal code. Everything’s an emergency with a Bengal cat. Meow! Meow! Meow! I’ve entered the room. Look at me NOW! Meow! Meow! Meeeeeeoooooooow! Guests! I’m here to be petted! Pronto! And if that doesn’t work I’ll do a WWE wrestling move and throw myself on my back. Please pet my belly!
Well my translation of Dante’s early morning musing was, “Hey I wanna be booted out of the room and the door shut behind me.” So that’s what I did, and it worked, no meowing after that.
Once I finally did wake up, I made sure to stay in bed another 45 minutes before I got out and started my stretching routine. Jonesy’s warm-up routine was to round up all of the tennis balls in the house and drop them nearby for me to toss.
The Workout Includes Play and Training for the Dog
One problem with working out with your dog is that it’s difficult to get good behavior when your goal is to just run a certain distance or perform a certain number of exercises in a set time period. For instance, when I’m walking with Jonesy I can switch things up so he’s interested in staying with me rather than in chasing the squirrels or other prey-like items he sees. When I’m running, especially with other people, he knows I often won’t stop if he gets ahead so he often likes to run slightly ahead of me and pull just enough to drive me nuts.
Today our routine was all about mixing fun focus and attention exercises with the run and exercise routine on our 5 mile course.
Phase 1: The warm-up was broken into a fast walk with quick changes of pace and direction to remind Jonesy that sticking by my side was fun.
Phase 2: Then the next part was the running part divided into 10 repetitions of 90 seconds fast (150 strides) followed by 30 seconds slow where I could work with Jonesy again to remind him that it’s fun to be in heel position even when I’m running.
Phase 3: Next was the fetch and sit-stay portion for Jonesy. While I worked on three repetitions of 100 lunges followed by 50 jumping squats (OK, my second round did not involve jumping), Jonesy played fetch. He also did short repetitions of sit-stay while I was doing squats, but either the cold weather or how I look when I’m doing squats, was starting to freak him out a little so I used that as my excuse to just do 10-15 squats at a time. Needless to say, when your goal is to get back to your dog before he gets up, you can learn to do squats quickly.
Phase 4: The cool-down lasted 1 mile because that’s how far I had to walk to get home. But it was a brisk walk because I had to generate enough heat to keep warm—it was COLD! Realistically, if I were planning this workout for someone else, I would have said they should jog that last mile, but since I had a dog with me, I rationalized that it would be okay to walk and work on rewarding him for patterns such as walking backwards or doing side-by-side spins with me. Hey, exercising with the dog has to have some benefits! One is that you should be able to somehow use your dog as an excuse for why the workout is taking so long.
Fun for Me and Jonesy
Overall, both Jonesy and I had a great outing and he practiced his good behaviors even though he just thought it was fun. And best of all, I think I burned off that left-over dessert that I had for breakfast.
My New Year’s resolution does not involve dieting.
For tips on how to train your dog to behave politely so that you can work out easily, go to www.drsophiayin.com and read the blog articles or watch the videos. Watch say please and suddenly settle dog class demo at https://drsophiayin.com/videos/.