A walk around the block is nice. Playing fetch at a nearby park is even better, when you can find the time. But is that really enough to keep your best friend physically fit?
Maybe your dog needs to join a gym for a more structured and intense exercise program.
"It's just a neat idea," says Bob Thompson who works out with his dog, Ginger, twice a week at K9 Fit Club in Chicago. "She's getting obedience training and a real workout."
Thompson says Ginger, an eight year-old Labrador-Golden Retriever mix, is always excited to go to the gym. And he's sure the hour-long sessions are much better exercise than she'd ever get on a walk.
"She's toned up and lost a few pounds over the last two years," he says.
The exercise classes at the club are designed to give both dogs and their owners a cardio workout and strength training.
"You have to do it together, so you strengthen the human-animal bond," says Tricia Montgomery, K9 Fit Club's founder and president. "We as the pet owner must be the one to get our dogs motivated and moving by working out with them."
K9 Fit has eight gyms across the country. It recently started an online certification program for people who want to become human-canine fitness trainers. About 200 have passed the course so far.
Know your options
Dog gyms range from small family-owned businesses to franchise operations with all the latest equipment and places to groom your dog. The quality of the staff and the courses offered vary greatly from place to place. There may be a monthly membership fee. Expect to pay $100 or more for specific classes.
Some of the new canine sports gyms are mighty impressive. Frolick Dogs, a new 5,000 square foot facility in Alexandria, Va., has doggie treadmills, balance platforms and lots of colorful rubber peanuts—stability balls designed for dogs—that help build their core and leg muscles.
There's also a large space for agility training. All the obstacles—the jumps, hoops, tunnels, teeter totter, balance beam and weave posts—are regulation-size for those who plan to enter their dogs in competition.