Monday, November 28, 2022

Body by doggy

by ELENA JOHNSON/Coeur Voice Contributor
| April 6, 2022 1:00 AM

It's National Canine Fitness Month and you know what that means.


That's right. You thought I was going to tell you to rouse that lazy pooch of yours to get off his duff. But that's disrespectful after all the exercising your faithful canine companion surely does, probably on a daily basis.

If you think your pup takes daily walkies out of habit rather than healthful, athletic zeal, rethink it. Every good boy and girl (and let's be real, they're all good boys and girls) is practically training for the Ironpup with moves like:

Exercising their traps: Any fitness guru understands the importance of working the full body. Your pet knows this without having to read it on the Healthline blog. When they're scaring the envelopes out of the mailman's hands that's a double duty workout and pest control. Speaking of pests, although not the avid hunters many felines are, your pooch can still snoop out a pest or two. Certainly their steady patrols behind you throughout the house warn would-be squatters to get out.

Bodyguarding: You thought your pooch just liked you too much. In reality your dog "needs" you the way a gym rat needs a 24-hour facility. All that faithful following throughout the house, inch by inch, never letting you out from their sight, is really just about getting their steps in, and maybe observation skills training. They're smart puppers to kill two birds with one stone.

Group fitness: It's not just for Tabata and tai chi fans. Playing with siblings, meeting friends at the dog park, or prodding human family members into fetching offers joy and community-building aspects of communal exercise.

Body rolls: Every fitness fiend needs a good stretch. When your pet isn't "play bowing," which is the real downward-facing dog, he's getting a good spine stretch by rolling around on his back. That happy pant you hear isn't from all the filth being caked onto fur. It's the happy sigh of tension released.

That filth, by the way, is just practicality. Human yogis practice on mats to protect their joints. Spot finds a little mud, grass or other delightfully squishy patch to pad the spine. Any smell is just ambiance.

Up dog: Speaking of stretching and flexing, Fido sure knows how to lengthen and strengthen — rising all the way up to the dinner table, kitchen counter, and that good-looking snack in your hand. Steal your food? Why no, this is just a little flexibility training. It's (hind) leg day. If a little smackerel makes its way underneath your canine's canines, well, that's just fuel for a long day's workout. Gotta replace those burned calories.

Tail-waggin': OK, so this one is involuntary, but it takes muscle to wave the happy flag. Just give her a treat without making her stretch and beg for it. She's tired.

Statue-making: "Sit" and "stay" sound like a break, but you and I both know, as the pooches definitely know, that it takes rigid core control to stay still when someone (you) is waving around bacon and beef. If that isn't barre-worthy control and technique, I don't know what is.

Editor's note: The writer has not been paid off by the Doggos for Doggone-Good Grub as a Dog-Given Right, nor are her favorite pair of shoes being held hostage by this or any canine-serving group.

Wheelies: If you've ever tuckered yourself out spinning around in circles as a kid, you'll understand the cardio poochie's getting in on the regular. It's hard work, but if one doesn't chase one's own tail, who will?

(Front) leg day: Look, dogs don't have hands. That leaves them with a single option for arm (err, front leg) workouts: digging holes. Canines need all four legs (ideally) to walk. So tearing up the garden is just a necessity to balance out the kitchen counter pull-ups. Remember: full-body strength training is important.

Cool downs: All that licking isn't just for grooming. It's also a great final stretch for your astoundingly athletic pet. Dogs may not have the flexibility cats do, but regular grooming is a pretty decent yoga substitute.

For real, though, make sure your pup has plenty of opportunities for exercise. Sedentary, inactive lifestyles are no healthier for dogs than they are for people. The American Kennel Club suggests daily activities like walking, hiking, running, swimming, fetch and agility exercises. Heck, reenact the Iditarod with your favorite toddler if your pooch can handle it. (Ask Mom first.)

Now for some honorary cat-ercises … HA. Everyone knows cats wouldn't be caught dead exercising. They only hunt bugs and vermin — and cocky, low-flying birds. And ghosts (terrifying).

When you're sicking them on a laser dot? Well, that's just training. For the ghosts. (Shudder.)

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Elena Johnson can be reached at

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