Fitness has gone to the dogs.
Enabled by the guilt many New Yorkers feel for leaving their pets at home while they go off to the gym, trainers and dog services are creating opportunities for your four-legged friends to get a workout or join your own.
Desh Valcin, founder of the Long Island-based pet concierge service Chase & Papi, is organizing a “doga” class this month in Brooklyn, where pet owners and their pups can do downward dog (or variations of) together.
“I see this event as being more fun than fitness,” says Valcin, who organizes social events for dog owners around the city about once a month. “I don’t think you’re going to sweat or burn off any calories in this class, but it’s a great bonding thing.”
The yoga class is being held March 26 at Sugarlift in Bushwick, and for $60, people can take part in the 40-minute class, followed by drinks and music. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition.
Anna Farkas, a Brooklyn yoga instructor who is leading the doga class, has worked with private clients who wanted to incorporate their dog into the yoga session. The flow is tailored to the size of the dog, but might include acroyoga-type poses — where you’re lifting the dogs hind legs with your feet and front paws with your arms while laying down — to wheelbarrow-type movements. If the dog is small enough, it can also act as a free weight, while bigger dogs can help their owners with balance.
“I think that bonding time and that time to really connect with your pet is what people most look for,” Farkas says. “We don’t always get that quality time, that one-on-one focus time, either with another human being or with our pets.”
There are also classes in NYC for those looking for a more sweat- and pant-inducing workout. For nearly three years, Go Fetch Run has run total-body workouts geared toward humans and their pets in Prospect Park. Since its founding, it has expanded to Central Park — both the east and west sides — and, thanks to rising interest, is also in the midst of licensing the program across the country.
“It combines two things that people are really passionate about — fitness and dogs,” says founder Angi Aramburu. “Dogs are great workout partners — they’re just game, and they just want to spend time with you.”
The hourlong class varies, but typically involve pushups, burpees, hill runs, sprints, resistance training and an obstacle course that both humans and dogs complete. The class is open to all breeds, from huskies and labs to Jack Russell Terriers and bulldogs. Aramburu’s own pup, an 8-year-old Chihuahua named Chiquita, is also often at the classes (“If my dog can, any dog can,” she says).
“Dogs have the same issues as people — they don’t get enough exercise,” Aramburu says. “This motivates the person to get out and do it, and it’s good for the dog.”
For dog-only workouts, Running Paws brings canines out on runs and jogs with athletes. And an urban form of mushing, or dog-sledding, has also found its way to New York.
What started out as a hobby training a friend’s husky to pull him on his skateboard, Tyler Hooff founded NYC Dog Mushers in fall 2014, offering private and group training. His company is currently on hiatus, but Northern Breed Sports Club, run by his former trainer, Mannie Diallo, has picked up the harness, so to speak, and offers private training in the “canine CrossFit.”
Mushing is geared toward medium to large breeds (at least 30 pounds), such as huskies and malamutes, and the long, slow-paced runs can cover up to 12 miles if the weather’s right.
“In the city there are so many large dogs, and these dogs need that exercise, otherwise they forget who they are,” Hooff says. “These dogs are happy and healthy. It relieves stress for them.”
Indeed, exercise is key to keeping your dog fit, as well as can also prevent destructive behavior triggered by boredom. Whether it’s doga, CrossFit or just jogging or playing fetch with your dog, the activity level will vary by the age of the dog. Because their bones are still growing, long walks aren’t recommended for puppies (about up to a year old), while adult dogs need 30 minutes of activity twice a day, says Dr. Vicki Myers, a veterinary staff manager for the ASPCA. Larger breeds also tend to have more energy than smaller ones.
“All types of dogs have some type of energy requirement, and if you allow them to play or to be mentally and physically stimulated, it can decrease destructive behavior,” Myers says, who recommends meeting with a vet if you have any concerns about your pet’s exercise levels. “Even small dogs need an outlet for their energy levels.”
Trackers fit for a dog
The wearable tech field for dogs is as crowded as it is for humans. Here are five activity trackers to know:
Whistle: A GPS-enabled, on-collar device that lets you monitor your dog’s location and activity in real time through an app. $99.95; whistle.com
FitBark: This collar-attached device tracks your dog’s activity and sleep, and can be linked with your FitBit so you stay fit together. $99.95; fitbark.com
Voyce: Track activity levels, as well as resting heart and respiratory rates, with this collar. $199; voyce.com
Tractive MOTION: This collar-attached device for dogs and cats tracks activity via an app and lets you know if your pet needs more to be more active. $109.99; tractive.com
WUF: Dubbed a “smartphone for dogs,” this GPS-enabled collar-attached device lets you track activity via an app and offers feeding recommendations and insights into barking. The Kickstarter-funded product is currently sold out of pre-orders but is expecting to have full availability by the holiday season. From $10; getwuf.com