What The Heck Is 'Canine Gym', And Why Does My Dog Need To Do It?

By Kathy Santo | Updated: Mar 7 2019

Many times in class (and with our FastTrack dogs), we include Canine Gym exercises in their training. We believe that this kind of training creates:

  1. A dog who can perform commands on any surface.
  2. A dog with a much stronger body, better balance, coordination, and body awareness.
  3. A confident dog. We’ve had many fearful dogs become super confident when we incorporated Canine Gym exercises into their daily training regimen.
  4. A dog who LOVES to train – and loves to learn with you! Their love of the canine gym work transfers to a love of obedience work!
  5. A physically and mentally tired dog!
  6. A dog who can focus mentally and physically.

Why Do I Want My Dog To Have A Strong Body? I Really Just Want Him To Come When He’s Called, And Stay In A Down When He’s Told

We want those things, too. But trust me, you also want a dog with a strong body! Ask anyone whose dog has had an injury, or who has a senior dog who can’t climb stairs anymore. It’s important! The awesome thing about out program is that we can actually work on ALL the commands you need, and simultaneously incorporate Canine Gym exercises into every one of them.

I’m Confused. How Does Standing On a Big Red Peanut Make A Dog Confident?

No, no….the yellow peanut is for confidence. The red one is for anger management. JUST KIDDING!

Ok, so the answer is: Successfully rehabbing a dog who’s nervous about working on the gym equipment is the equivalent of ‘Outward Bound’ for people.

Our goal is to foster personal growth, as well as build critical physical and mental skills in dogs.  To do that, we progress in small steps, celebrating each success, gaining their confidence and trust, until eventually achieving our overall goal. We’ve rehabbed so many anxious and fearful dogs using this equipment that it’s now a key addition to our training and behavior modification program for fear/confidence issues. We’d love to show you how we do it!

Why Is This Good For Puppies?

Because a tired puppy is a good puppy. Destructive behaviors are often due to a puppy that hasn’t had enough exercise. Training plus exercise gives your puppy a beneficial physical and mental “job” by teaching them new games, tricks, and behaviors. When they have to focus on their balance to stay on an object, that will transfer to learning how to focus on YOU, too! We can also improve a puppy’s (and older dog’s!) confidence, and desensitize them to the wobbly motion of the car ride by playing games with them on the wobble board.

What About My Older Dog?

Our senior dogs tend to lose muscle mass in their hind ends, so we focus on exercises to increase musculature in the hind end with “dog squats” and repetitions of assisted sit-to-stand exercises.

Dog push-ups (sit – down – sit –down) are a great exercise to increase shoulder strength. We use a balance disc or donut underneath senior dog’s rear feet with their front feet positioned on the ground. This shifts the weight to their shoulders while challenging their center of gravity.

I Don’t Have Any Of That Equipment At Home!

No worries! We can show you how to use things you do have (a chair, couch cushion, Bosu ball, step aerobics platform) to recreate what we’re doing. If you’d like to get some equipment, email us and we can offer you a discount. We’re also adding a ‘Canine Gym At Home’ feature to our newsletter that will show you how to do the exercises with your dog, with things you already have in your house.

Kathy Santo has spent her entire career as a dog trainer and handler, training dogs and winning over 500 obedience, agility and Canine Good Citizenship titles. Working with her own dogs, she has achieved every competitive obedience title the American Kennel Club (AKC) has offered and earned the prestigious AKC “Obedience Trial Champion” title (OTCh) multiple times.

In Waldwick, Kathy teaches classes, private lessons, and oversees the training of her student’s dogs using her extensive knowledge, experience and intuition to handle problems from the benign to the serious. Her engaging personality has won her the respect and friendship of her many students, who now consider themselves part of her extended family.


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