Downeast Dog News

Get Fit Fido!

By Julie Harris | Jan 01, 2018

Canine fitness is much more than a fad. If you have ever owned a dog athlete, you can appreciate how properly toned muscles, strong bones, good balance, and adequate core strength can increase a dog’s performance.

But more importantly, a fit canine athlete is much less likely to be injured while participating in dog sports, and a couch potato pet may live a longer and healthier life.

Fitness is achieved through specific exercises that target muscle groups and flexibility using balance and weight shifting. The safest way to set up your dog’s fitness program is through a certified canine fitness trainer.

An instructor who teaches obedience, puppy manners, agility, or other more familiar courses is not necessarily qualified to teach dog fitness. Fitness training requires more anatomical and physiological knowledge, and trainers must go through rigorous coursework to gain that information and to learn proper techniques for building individual programs for each dog.

The human equivalent would be a personal trainer who creates a program for you that includes aerobic, core fitness and strength training. It’s more specialized and specific than just going to the gym and hopping on some equipment for an hour.

A canine fitness trainer can identify each dog’s strengths and weaknesses, tailor the program to the individual dog, and monitor its progress. Programs are designed to help canine athletes stay strong, to help puppies be confident in their movement, aid senior dogs in long lasting mobility, and continue to rebuild AFTER rehab from an injury.

Dogs of all ages can take part in fitness training because each program is custom made. Besides the physical benefits of fitness, performing the different tasks required builds the dog’s confidence as each skill is conquered and a new challenge presented.

Certified Professional Canine Fitness Trainer Rebeccah Aube of FITdogMaine in Portland has participated in dog sports for several years and has taught classes in obedience, flyball, and other sports.

“My interest in canine fitness started with my West Highland White Terrier who played flyball. Westies are not exactly built for this sport, so I wanted to be sure he stayed strong and healthy while he played. His fitness program not only helped in flyball but helped him to live a long life full of activity to the age of 16!

Now I have the opportunity to help dogs in all stages of their lives, from helping an athlete perform on the agility course to helping a family dog be able to jump in the car on his own!”

Some of the equipment used in canine fitness is affordable enough to purchase for use at home, but a good trainer can help you come up with ideas for using everyday things that might serve the same purpose.

For instance, pillows, patio blocks, cones, boards, and ladders all can be used to teach controlled movement, improve core strength and balance, and achieve performance-level fitness.

Using the proper equipment and form, however, will optimize your dog’s training success.

Canine fitness is as important to the overall health of your canine athlete as quality food, clean water, and regular exercise.

Canine fitness is another fun activity you can do with your dog. Dogs love to work on the exercise equipment and perform the various tasks necessary, which challenge their minds as well as their bodies.

Please note that canine fitness is not physical rehabilitation for injuries. See a rehab professional for that, and then find a fitness coach to continue strength building.


Julie Harris is a member of Flyball MAINEiacs and has two dogs in canine fitness programs at FITdogMaine.