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title. Putting together a fitness program for your dog

date. 2015

about. Jambo and Canine Conditioning

Fitness Programs for Dogs, part 1

Disclaimer : I'm not a Veterinarian, nor am I an orthopedic DVM. One should always consult with a good orthopedic vet or certified PT before starting a fitness program with their dog.

Jambo at Martial Arfs, September 2015

Early this Spring, my puppy Jambo was running in my yard and suddenly stopped short, hiked up her back leg and started hopping about, unable to bear weight on it. A trip to her physical therapist confirmed that Jambo had a luxating patella.  This is a fairly common condition in small dogs - but still alarming to see, especially since it happened repeatedly over the next few days. My holistic vet confirmed the PT’s diagnosis and sent me home with a handful of supplements for her, since surgery was out of the question for such a young dog.  In the meantime, I was to avoid working her on slippery surfaces and discourage tight turning.


 What an alarming turn in the life of an Agility dog-in-training! The supplements I was giving her, and my careful management, meant that the number of times that Jambo’s knee luxated decreased significantly over the next few weeks, but my focus was to get Jambo back in the saddle again with appropriate exercise that would give her the strength to overcome her injury. I had some FitPaws equipment that I wanted to use to help Jambo’s rehab - but in light of her injury, I didn’t dare start using these props until I got a better understanding of what to do.


 This turned out to be a good decision. “A typical client has already started a fitness / strengthening program with their dog, and they’re in touch with me to make sure that what they are doing is correct and how they can help their dog further,” says Bobbie Lyons, owner of “Additionally, they’re seeking input on what the focus of their exercise program should be, and where their dog could use more strength. This is dependent on the type of activity the dog is involved in.”  If a client has already got some FitPaws equipment, Bobbie helps them to create a fitness program for their dog based on their dogs’ needs and their existing equipment.  Her guidance allows her clients to move forward in their program, and prevent the possibility of doing more harm than good.


 The concepts of Canine Fitness Training, with its new vocabulary of words such as “proprioception” weren’t totally unfamiliar to me. I had taken an online class with Frankie Joiris called “Fit to be Tricked” which was informative and fun, so I sought her input on the best way to get started.  She emphasized the importance of the dog’s introduction to the equipment be fun and highly rewarding.


“Once you’ve made sure the dog is in no way worried about the object, lure the dog into touching it with one or both front feet.  Usually if you stand with the dog right in front of either the disc or donut, making sure you are stabilizing it with a hand or foot, and encourage the dog to stand on its hind legs for a treat, you can lower the dog’s front feet onto the object by lowering the treat as you move it slightly forward.  Repeat this a few times until the dog is comfortable with placing front feet on the prop.” said Joiris. This was a game I’d played with my 2 older dogs, and with a chance to try out some new equipment, I was excited to begin a program that would specifically help Jambo.

I have such fun teaching my friends at the Mt Vernon Animal Shelter using the FitPaws equipment!

 Meanwhile, in FaceBook-land, an Agility friend happened to post a terrific article about conditioning dogs for sports and strength training at Martial Arfs on Long Island. Hooray! This seemed to be exactly what I was looking for, and in light of her injury, I knew I would need guidance in getting Jambo on track. I made an appointment to see the Martial Arfs facility and have an initial consult with the owner, Jeris Pugh.  Jambo loved being lured up onto the equipment and Jeris took care that each part of the process was reinforcing for her. I set up a series of follow-up visits for Jambo so that I’d do the right thing by her.

Jeris and Rue and a coupla Donuts at Martial Arfs

Jambo working with Jeris

 There is a consensus among professionals that personal guidance is the best way to get started with your own canine conditioning program.  Bobbie Lyons travels around giving workshops, and she notices a common thread among attendees. “Most people have so many “aha!” moments during my workshops,” she says. “They improve upon what they know and can then make adjustments to get where they need to go. There are so many more facets to canine conditioning that can be learned from attending a workshop - students leave with better info on correct postures and better understanding of their importance.”  The follow-ups that Bobbie offers are important, too, as a good canine conditioning program will likely need some re-designing after a few weeks. “If your focus is on improving your dog’s hind end strength, your fitness program might shift back to strengthening the whole body and improving efficient movement of all the muscle groups.”


Want to get started? It’s easy to do even with limited space.  Frankie Joiris says : “If you were picking out just 2 pieces of equipment to get started with, my personal favorites are the Giant Balance Disc and K9FITBone.  They are perfect for any age, and you can do so many different things with them.”


Next post: Sticking with your fitness program, and some things that make your PT go, “Hmmmm.”

Bobbie Lyons is a Cert CF and FitPAWS Master Trainer™ Instructor.  She teaches private lessons, online classes and workshops via, which currently showcases her conditioning program with her BC puppy, Drama. She travels frequently and can arrange seminars for your group or club :

Frankie Joiris and Chris Ott at Speedoggie Performance Dog Training offer seminars in fitness for canine athletes, fitness programs for any dog, and increasing fitness through targeted trick training, as well as offering online fitness classes.  They teach in Brooklyn, in New Jersey, and online at  and can be reached at - also, search for “Speedoggie” on Facebook for videos and pictures.

Jeris Pugh is the owner and head trainer at MartialArfs, and has been training dogs privately for behavior modification and athletic performance by applying principles from teaching martial arts and functional conditioning training principles with reward based dog training methods.

Misa Martin is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer. Years of attending agility seminars, workshops, seminars and camps with her first dog led to the beginning of her professional dog training career as a PetSmart Trainer in 2008. In addition to teaching at PCOTC's Family Manners and Agility programs, Misa is a staff trainer at the Mount Vernon Humane Society, active with Waggytail Rescue as a consultant for training and behavior issues, and a trainer with the Briarcliff SPCA education program. Misa owns, providing reward­ based training to private clients. Through her knowledge, experience, and sense of humor, Misa encourages students to approach dog training as a team effort, where students learn as much from their dogs as dogs learn from their "parents," making training fun for humans and dogs alike!

Misa can be reached at

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