As a personal trainer I have spent the last few years listening to clients and potential clients alike give me excuses about how they don’t have enough time to exercise. Repeatedly, the reason wasn’t working long hours or family obligations, instead many were saying they had trouble finding the time to fit in a workout AND walk the dog. I might have let that excuse slide once or twice, but as I kept hearing it time and time again, a question began to take shape: Why couldn’t they work out WITH their dog?
I pondered this question quite a bit over the next few years, often discussing it with other trainers, dog trainers, veterinarians, nutritionists, clients, and friends. What if I designed a workout program for people AND their dogs, so that they could work out together? Has anyone ever heard of such a thing? Would anyone be interested if I created one? And so Fit Doggie and Me® was born – a workout program for people to do WITH their dogs, so that both would be getting in their exercise as well as valuable bonding and play time.
Proof of concept came in late summer of 2013 when I asked several of my clients and their dogs to join me outside in a field next to the dog park in Arlington, MA. We had me for the fitness, a dog trainer for tips and guidance, a photographer for documentation, and several warm and sunny weekend mornings to run through a series of exercises I knew would be good for the people. What we needed to test was how the dogs took to the exercises and what modifications might be necessary.
In a few short weeks, with the people and their dogs continuing to practice the exercises during the week to reinforce and gain familiarity, we found an agreeable mix of exercises to keep both person and dog interested and engaged. The surprising side effect: the dogs began to LOOK FORWARD to coming to the workout sessions! They were spending time with their person, receiving a workout to express some of their energy, getting fit, and having social time with the other dogs in the program as well as in the dog park next to us. It was a WIN-WIN all around!
I pitched the program to the Town of Arlington, MA Department of Recreation and they liked the idea so much that they insisted on including it in their fall catalog. Thus I launched the first six-week Fit Doggie and Me® session in Arlington several weeks after the initial trial. I actively reached out to canine and fitness/health businesses to look for partnering opportunities, as this helped to foster support and raise awareness within the community and aided in cross-promotion initiatives.
During the cold Boston winter we moved our workouts to an indoor doggie day care facility with whom we partner. With only a few modifications due to space constraints we had our clients and their dogs continuing to get their weekly workout and spend much needed one-on-one time. With repeat clients we have been able to formulate additional levels to the program so as to introduce more challenging exercises for both the people and the dogs. To this end that we have our veteran canine jumping multiple and high-level hurdles, not to mention the burpees and other advanced regimes for his person.
~Mike Harb, owner and personal trainer of HarbCORE Training; developer of Fit Doggie and Me®