By Dr. Becker
It’s common knowledge that dogs need regular exercise to stay healthy, just like their owners. Many well-intentioned pet owners fulfill this need by taking their dogs for leisurely walks around the block or setting them loose in a fenced backyard, where they may just sniff around and lounge in the sun. For those living in urban areas, regular exercise time for pets may be even harder to come by and may be reduced to an occasional visit to the dog park.
In short, many dogs are lacking in the type of vigorous, heart-pumping, not to mention mentally stimulating, exercise they need. Perhaps not surprisingly, a niche has popped up to fill this void, in the form of workout facilities specifically tailored to your furry canine friend. One such option is Frolick Dogs, located in Alexandria, Virginia.1
Far from a ho-hum walk in the park, Frolick Dogs, and others like it, offers pets strength training, agility, endurance work and more. There’s something for every dog, from those looking to have fun while their owners are at work to those needing rehabilitation following surgery or injury.
Dogs Enjoy a Physically and Mentally Demanding Workout
What makes dog gyms different from a trip to a dog park? The dogs work with their owners and trainers on specialized equipment, engaging in tailored workouts to meet their individual needs. Frolick owner Kim Gilliam told WTOP news:2
“You can only go on so many walks or go to the dog park so many times before you feel like [dogs] really need something more — especially in an urban environment like this where people have limited time, maybe no backyards, things like that … So if you think of it more like a human gym where you’re going to get a workout, you’re expecting to go and use the different equipment, maybe talk to a trainer for advice and then really work hard while you’re there.”
Dogs lucky enough to attend Frolick’s dog gym get to experience weave poles, balance balls, jumps, tunnels and treadmills, and owners get to go through the courses with their dogs while trainers are available for consultation if needed. Other facilities, like Aquatic Paws in Falls Church, Virginia, owned by Lisa Castaneda, offer indoor swimming and massage for dogs.
“Castaneda gets in the pool with each of her four-legged clients, often using treats or toys as motivation, and helps them work their joints in the weightless environment. Jets provide an option for resistance swimming; the underwater treadmill helps dogs build even more strength,” WTOP news reported.3
A common misconception is that most dogs won’t participate in these regimented physical activities, but having opened a rehabilitation facility myself, I’ll have you know I believe all dogs can be trained (or enticed) to participate in a variety of health-saving or restoring exercise protocols. All it takes is a little patience, and chances are once he gets used to it, he’ll appreciate the extra activity and stimulation.
Beyond the dog gym, many of these facilities offer comprehensive services like grooming, wellness programs, training and boarding. If you’re unable to get home to walk your dog during the day, there are also day boarding options that give your dog time to play with other dogs in a group setting, outdoor walks, individualized exercise sessions and down time. Some will even pick your dog up and drop him off after his day of fun.
Dog Adventure Programs
Does your dog love going for hikes in the woods and other active outdoor endeavors? There’s a program for that too. Pant & Wag’s Fitness Adventures for Dogs, based in Washington, DC, takes doggy gyms up a notch, allowing dogs to have outdoor adventures as often as you like.4 The company states it will “take your furry family member out into nature” to go hiking, biking or running, or engage him in special exercises.
I think this would be exceptionally alluring to most pooches, after all, they get to smell brand new smells, experience new places, move their bodies, ground themselves out in nature and interact with other dogs. This is the ultimate win-win, in my opinion. The only thing better is if you were able to go, too!
They’ll pick up your dog from your home, take him out on the town to a “dog-centric destination,” then drop him back off. An average fitness adventure will get your dog out of the house for about two hours, and Pant & Wag will even send you occasional pictures and videos of your dog’s day out.
How much does it cost? It varies from $40 to $60 per session, while typical dog gyms may charge $50 to $65 for a monthly membership. Costs, of course, will vary depending on your location and the services provided.
Keeping Your Dog Active on Your Own
It’s certainly nice to know that you have options to help keep your dog in shape and mentally occupied on a daily basis, even on the days you have to work or are too busy to go out on a hike or take your dog for a swim. If you have some extra time, there are even fitness programs designed for you and your dog to do together. For many pet owners, however, such services will be more of a luxury than a necessity.
The good news is that you can keep your dog healthy and fit on your own as long as you’re willing to take him on power walks or engage him in other types of cardiovascular exercise like swimming, fetch, Frisbee, agility competition, flyball or dock jumping. You could also take a bike ride alongside your dog using a special dog bike leash. You’ll need to commit to some activity daily, as weekend activities won’t be enough. And exercising your dog yourself is free, not to mention good for you, too.
Your dog should be getting an absolute minimum of 20 minutes of sustained heart-thumping exercise three times a week, although 30 minutes is better than 20, and six or seven days a week is better than three. The more activity you can engage your dog in, the better, and you’ll not only see your dog become better behaved as a result but also will get to enjoy more time bonding together.