Have you ever asked your dog if he wanted to work out? We have.
I have never been a very athletic person: always chosen last in the volleyball team (balls hurt people!), not able to catch my breath if I need to catch a bus (so I never bother to try anymore) and physically incapable to carry a pack of water bottle even if my life depended on it (thank you modern world and drinkable tap water!).
Despite my physical limitations, it never really bothered me until I became a dog trainer. Suddenly I had to be able to hold a pulling and raging 30kg dog while smiling and pretending all was under control – at that time I didn’t know better – or try to keep up while running an agility course. I quickly realized getting in shape was becoming a necessity.
As I started to work out, I also became more aware of the benefits of fitness and proprioception for dogs. I think you noticed how in the last 5 years or so, proprioception courses have become more popular. More and more pictures and videos are now shared on social media, we can see a lot of dogs doing “cool” things on bright and colorful pieces of equipment. But I couldn’t help to wonder how the dogs really felt about that.
You see, as a former total sloth trying to become a graceful antelope, I came to realize that working out is hard! It can be uncomfortable, I might even hurt on the next days! But at least I know why I’m doing it, I chose to do it. This is a voluntary decision to endure something necessary to improve my health and quality of life.
So to me, it became evident that I needed to “ask” my dogs if they wanted to go through with this. I actually need to work on specific strengthening exercises with my toller Miette who has knee issues: either she works out or she could get injured just by running during our daily walks. Having her on leash for the rest of her life was not an option for me (c’mon!), nor was letting her getting hurt. So we “had to” exercise but I could still give her some room for decision making: