This past week, we got in touch with Lee A. Taylor of Eastchester, NY, the owner of K9 Fit Training, and interviewed her to learn more about the growing field of canine fitness.
For starters, Lee began working with people, building her massage therapy and personal training business over the past thirty one years. While working with people professionally, she was able to fulfill her love of dogs through unofficial training for the past twenty five years and volunteering at a shelter for the past decade. As part of her volunteering with rescues, she’s always sure to be hosting a foster.
It was only a matter of time before her professional passion of fitness and her love of animals fell into harmony and Lee embarked on a new adventure of K9 Fitness.
The “a-ha” moment came when she happened to see dogs using balance equipment, and how their individual muscle groups were being targeted in order to stabilize and strengthen their muscles. Curious to learn more and inspired by dogs regaining their health, she found out the manufacturer of the equipment and discovered they developed, along with the University of Tennessee, the certification of canine fitness trainer.
So, after informally working with dogs, Lee went to the University of Tennessee where she was certified as a Certified Canine Fitness Trainer, in 2016. The program arose in thanks to rehab specialists, dog agility trainers, and pet owners using their equipment. They noticed pet owners were not always using the equipment correctly or using the right equipment for their dogs fitness level, and could possibly injure their dog. Right now, the field of canine fitness is very new and probably other schools will offer it in the future.
While being certified, Lee learned many things which she has now incorporated into her K9 Fitness Program. The first thing Lee does when working with a new dog is to evaluate their current fitness level to determine what exercises they can do and what equipment they can use safely. Part of the evaluation process is also to see what cues they know, as manners training is incorporated into the program as well.
That said, K9 Fitness is for dogs of all ages and fitness levels. Not all dogs start at the same level, but they all start at the beginning, and go only as far as is safe. One thing Lee’s discovered is that she can’t keep dogs out of the gym. Her own sixteen year old Pit Bull enjoys the benefits of frequent exercise and the youthful rejuvenation it brings out.
Fitness training is tailored to the dog — some are obese and need to lose weight and strengthen their core etc… other dogs are older and just don’t get enough exercise. Puppies can see a benefit as well in order to be confident encountering different surfaces out in the real world. Any fear that a puppy has is addressed so they can grow up well adjusted.
Though Lee’s K9 Fitness can be for any dog, she typically works with veterinarians as they are the ones whom can often identify a dog in need. However, whether or not you’re recommended by your veterinarian, all dogs should be cleared by their veterinarian prior to fitness training.
If your dog doesn’t see a veterinarian frequently, or doesn’t seem to have an immediate need to go, you may be wondering what to look for in your own pet to determine if fitness training might be something they need. Lee recommends owners look for a change in their dog’s activity level. For example: a dog that usually has no problem going up and down stairs suddenly hesitates. Or, they have trouble getting out of bed. A trip to the vet might determine the dog is feeling weak due to arthritis. In this example, once the dog is cleared for fitness training, Lee would focus on strengthening the hind quarters and core to maintain the dog’s overall health.
Of course, it’s best for a dog to have training before they show signs of aging in order for the dog to embark upon their golden years full of life and health. Even if a dog happens to be losing their eyesight, fitness training will help the dog feel more confident because they’ll enjoy the experience of having a human help them exercise.
Specific exercises are tailored to help strengthen muscles so a dog is at reduced risk to injure themselves during normal exercise. Some of those exercise include working out on Cavaletti Rails (which are little hurtles) that force a dog to lift up their legs to flex and extend their hips. The hurtles are adjustable and older dogs can walk over them, but it provides them with the exercise needed to be stronger and healthier. Dogs are taught to back up on flat surfaces which is a good mental exercise in addition to the physical aspect. Dogs also use a “peanut” or “donut” which are basically yoga balls in the shape of a peanut (or donut) that help dogs work their core. There are also discs, rocker boards and wobble boards that help with balance.
The great thing about work out equipment is it helps dogs work out muscles they wouldn’t normally work out. Just as we’d expect a wolf to be more fit than a domestic dog, a dog that only goes for a walk may not be living up to its fullest potential and getting all the exercise it needs. With fitness training, it’s not just physical but also mental as the work outs and games require them to sharpen their senses.
Lee recommends owners not to overwork their dog, but notes that anywhere from 3-6 days of a workout routine is the norm. The amount of time per workout is different for each dog. Seniors start with a shorter program than conditioned athletes would. As for the owners, some people come to the training sessions and learn how to work out with their dog at home, but it isn’t necessary. All fitness programs are individualized for the dog and their family.
To get in touch, please contact:
Lee A Taylor at 914-588-0032