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Boot camp for canines

Sawyer and Pip show just how much they enjoy working out on the exercise equipment at the DogTime gym.
July 20, 2013 - 5:34 AM

KAMLOOPS – You know how hard those exercise balls can be to balance on while just sitting? Imagine yourself trying to balance while down on all fours and going through a series of sits, stands and lay downs while balancing on that exercise ball.

One trainer in Kamloops is touting the benefits of strength training for dogs and exercise balls are just one of the items she uses to help her dogs become more body aware, a great tool for both preventative measures and injury recovery.

“It's fun, mentally stimulating and great for the body,” trainer Sarah Rose of DogTime says, “It's great for injury prevention and support.”

Always a lover of all animals, Rose realized early on her golden retriever Sawyer was special in his love and tolerance of kids. She decided to start a training program with gentle Sawyer utilized as a therapy dog but after personal tragedy struck Rose turned to equine and canine training instead.

Her journey, which included a bout of lameness for Sawyer, led her to find a program that would help Sawyer heal and then allow him to become strong enough to stave off future injuries. She found strength training, much the same as what you would find in a physiotherapist office, was a perfect option for her dog.

Eight-year-old Sawyer enjoyed learning the balance boards and lateral movement exercises and Rose quickly saw the benefits of also using the exercise program for her younger dog, Pip, as well. Her goldens took about six months to get a lot of the movements down but both took to the large exercise ball quickly. Rose says it did take quite a bit of work to get to this point.

“They make it look easy now, but you should've seen them in the beginning, it took about six months.” Rose laughs, “The ball was easy though, it's play time.”

Last fall she started offering classes in canine conditioning and about 20 dogs and their owners have taken part in the four separate sessions. Dogs that have completed some basic obedience classes are usually ready for the dog gym, but Rose stresses that getting their feet on everything will help them create the awareness needed for these types of exercises.

In class the dogs start with floor work and then begin exercises similar to squats on a step. The perform lateral movements and become body aware through lateral and backwards movement as well as balance board work while they move towards being able to complete exercises on the big ball. Rose says none of the dogs in the classes have quite made it to that point though.

Rose, who also offers puppy and obedience training and canine massage, offers suggestions on exercises that can be done while out in your yard, on a walk or on the trail. Rose says while the idea of strength training for dogs is one not everyone fully understands yet it is one she thinks people will get behind once they realize the benefits and just how much the dogs can enjoy it.

“It's so new, but so valuable,” she says. “You just have to play with it. Everybody should be doing this.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email, call (250)819-3723 or tweet @JennStahn.

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