As a dog trainer, one of my main goals is to show my human clients how much fun they can have training their dogs. We try to make every class and every session a fun experience for the dog and the person.
One of the best tools we have used to really show people how much FUN it can be to teach their dogs new behaviors is the FitPAWS equipment…
… We began offering private, 30-minute FitPAWS classes a little over one year ago, and I never dreamed it would become as popular as it has. I offer classes just four afternoons a week, and it is now not uncommon to teach between 60-70 classes each month.
Initially, my goal was to help people and dogs have fun together and show owners there are more ways to exercise their pets than just the daily walk. That goal has certainly been achieved! What I’ve learned over the last year is that FitPAWS equipment can be useful for a myriad of reasons and a variety of dogs. Things I’d never considered as problems that could be solved with FitPAWS sessions have shown themselves to be greatly improved with the use of these fun tools. Owners see dramatic differences in the behavior of their dogs that improve the quality of life for both of them. It often reminds me of how parents watch their children in ballet class or a little league baseball game when clients bring their dogs in for a FitPAWS session. They are just so amazed and proud at all the amazing things their dogs can do. I know it is improving the dog-human bond, and that makes ME happy.
What dogs can benefit from FitPAWS classes?
- Puppies: Young dogs, especially those younger than 16 weeks of age, benefit from FitPAWS classes as part of a well-rounded socialization plan. Puppies this young are learning and making association with the world around them, so the more positive experiences they have with all kinds of people, places, sounds, movements, foods, etc., the more likely they will become confident, well-adjusted adult dogs. Obedience skills such as “sit,” “down,” “stay,” and “come” can even be incorporated into a FitPAWS session to help your new puppy begin to generalize these skills.
- Grieving Dogs: When a dog loses a close companion, such as another animal or a beloved person, it is possible for him or her to develop symptoms such a lethargy, loss of appetite and even depression. A focused time where the dog is taught to play and have fun on their own can be a positive step towards healing. Because FitPAWS equipment is 100% positive and the dog really cannot make a “mistake” it is a good option for the grieving pet. If a dog has lost a human companion, FitPAWS equipment can even help the dog bond with a new favorite person!
- Shy or Nervous Dogs: Dogs who might be shy or nervous around sounds, movement or new people are excellent candidates for FitPAWS classes. Since each class is customized to the needs and temperament of the individual animal, training can proceed at the pace that is just right for your dog. Shy dogs can make positive associations with the FitPAWS equipment (“Hey, I just touched that Balance Disc, and a cookie fell from the sky!” or “That Peanut made a little noise when I touched it and then my mom praised me!”) They can also learn to make friends with people other than their owners (“This FitPAWS teacher must really like me because whenever I come to visit her she gives me lots of yummy goodies! I think I like meeting new people!”) We’ve even had a veterinarian recommend FitPAWS equipment for shy dogs when she saw what a turn-around could be made in these types of settings.
- Rescue Dogs: Shelter dogs make excellent pets, but they sometimes need a little help to come out of their shells and show off their wonderful personalities. FitPAWS training is a great way to get shelter dogs comfortable meeting new people because, as a FitPAWS trainer, my #1 goal is to make the dog have fun! These dogs have often only been in a car for trips to the vet (where they get stuck by needles) or to the groomer (where they get hosed down and blow dried – not super fun) or to adoption events (which are absolutely necessary to find these dogs forever homes, but can be stressful because dogs are handled and greeted by lots of strangers.) Getting a weekly visit to the FitPAWS studio can help these pups make positive associations with car rides and meeting new people.
- Performance Dogs: Athletic dogs and show dogs need to be in top physical condition for health and safety. Incorporating FitPAWS training into their routines helps maintain strength, flexibility, balance and confidence. Dogs who compete in conformation can practice appropriate stance position. Agility dogs can perfect their contact obstacle positions and can also simulate movements required for weave poles and the pause table. Flyball dogs can learn to jump long in a FitPAWS session. Dock diving dogs can cross train to build strength and stamina. Lure coursing dogs can build up supporting leg, abdominal and back muscles that can prevent injury when running on uneven terrain. We often use a six-week series of FitPAWS classes as a preparatory step to learning agility. The possibilities are almost limitless when it comes to using FitPAWS equipment to cross train athletic dogs.
- Elderly Dogs: As dogs age, we might need to adjust their exercise regimen to accommodate their changing bodies. Because the FitPAWS equipment is gentle and can be done without heavy impact on a dog’s joints, it is ideal for elderly animals. Even deaf and blind dogs have been successful in FitPAWS classes. As their physical condition improves, the exercises can be scaled to allow continued progress.
- Long-Bodied Dogs: Certain breeds can be prone to back issues, so FitPAWS training for these dogs can really work to prevent injury and keep a dog happy and healthy for its entire life. Corgis, Basset Hounds, Dachshunds, and other long-bodies spaniels and terriers can benefit greatly from improved core strength which can be developed and maintained through use of the FitPAWS equipment.
- Heat- or Cold-Sensitive Dogs: Certain short-nosed breeds like English Bulldogs, Boston Terriers and Pugs are extremely sensitive to hot and humid weather conditions making it difficult to exercise them in the summer months. Northern breeds like Huskies and American Eskimos also often struggle in hot conditions. Conversely, dogs with short coats and thin bodies like Italian Greyhounds or Chihuahuas often do not fare well in cold conditions. Since FitPAWS classes can be taught indoors, owners of these types of dogs have an option to keep them well-exercised in any type of weather.
- High-Energy Dogs: Let’s face it, a daily walk is often not rigorous enough to provide adequate exercise for every dog. Sporting breeds, herding breeds and working dogs in particular need quite a bit more activity than your average pet. While it may look easy, a FitPAWS class can be tailored to help meet these dogs’ extreme need for activity.
- Over-Weight Dogs: Ideally, we’d never let our dogs become overweight, but sometimes it happens. A good FitPAWS trainer can start with an overweight dog doing exercises appropriate for its current condition and work over time to help bring the dog down to a healthy weight. Obviously, a weekly FitPAWS class alone isn’t enough to solve a dog’s weight issues, but combined with appropriate veterinary care and a motivated owner, these types of classes can certainly be a big help in getting a chubby dog back into shape.
- Super-Smart Dogs: One of the biggest benefits of FitPAWS training that is often overlooked is the potential for providing mental stimulation and exercise for intelligent dogs. I happen to think ALL dogs are super-smart, and most dogs really enjoy the thinking and figuring part of their FitPAWS sessions. The equipment lends itself to a type of training called “shaping” where the dog isn’t TOLD what to do. They work to figure it out on their own and are rewarded for successive approximations of the behaviors I’m trying to eventually reach. For example, I might reward a look at a FitPAWS® Peanut. Then I’d reward a step toward it, then a nose touch, then a paw touch, then a touch with two front paws, etc. Eventually the dog will learn to hop up onto the equipment without me ever telling them or showing them what I wanted. It is a FANTASTIC way for dogs to learn problem solving skills and exercise their brains.
- Dogs with Attachment or Separation Issues: Dogs with separation anxiety or attachment issues often have a hard time focusing on anything when they are any distance away from their people. I’ve had good success helping these dogs during FitPAWS classes. We begin work often with the owners doing the activities with their dog. Then we slowly have the dog begin doing exercises for me while the parents stand right next to us. Over time, we move the equipment a little farther away from the dog’s people until they are happily doing their sessions even when mom and dad are out of sight. Separation anxiety can be a difficult issue to fix, so having the tool in our toolbox is a real blessing.
- Boarding Dogs: I work at a facility that also offers day care and boarding. We find owners often want their dogs to have some fun one-on-one time with a person when they need to be boarded and FitPAWS training fits the bill perfectly. Since our FitPAWS studio is indoors, we can schedule this one-on-one time no matter the time of day or weather. We take pictures and videos during these sessions to email to our clients so they can see how much fun their dogs are having while the owners are away. Sometimes dogs that have graduated our puppy program or other traditional training will ask us to continue to incorporate the skills learned in those classes into their FitPAWS sessions to help maintain behaviors like polite greetings, obedience commands and recall.
Join The Fun!
We do offer single, 30-minute FitPAWS classes, but virtually every client who tries one ends up opting for a six-week series. And most of those clients choose to continue their FitPAWS training indefinitely when they see how much fun their dogs are having. Our FitPAWS clientele continues to grow each month, so much, in fact, that we are now in the process of teaching another trainer to use the equipment and teach day care and boarding dogs during their stays with us.
About the Author: Misty Mills lives in Tomball, TX and has worked at Miss Daisy’s Dog Camp for the last 5 years. She has a bachelors of science degree in communication which is tremendously useful when training dogs. Her passion is in early puppy socialization & training, as well as canine fitness & cross training. In her non-work life she is a long-distance runner and baker. She shares her life with a commercial pilot named Mike and two mix-breed dogs named Kingston and Bette, who are affectionately known as Huoodles (a cross between a human and a poodle).