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How to Lose Weight, Get Fit, Have Fun and Train Your Dog

By Edited Nov 4, 2016 0 0

Two studies concerning satisfaction with weight loss and fitness regimens and strategies have recently been reported by the U.S. Press. The studies were done in the United Kingdom and Canada.

The U.K. study cited percentiles of satisfaction with two types of weight loss and fitness programs. The study conductors questioned both people who exercised with their dogs as a method for weight loss and fitness and those who joined health clubs for the same purpose.

The study respondents who exercised at health clubs reported a 15 per cent satisfaction level with the program they had chosen, while those who exercised with their dogs reported satisfaction at the 84th percentile level.

People who have a higher level of satisfaction with the program they pursue seeking weight loss generally can be assumed to stick with the program longer and achieve better results with longer lasting effects.

In my case that has proven true.

In the middle of my sixth decade I found that my weight had risen to the point of presenting problems with symptoms of adult onset diabetes and my blood pressure needed to be controlled with medication.

I moved to the high desert of the Oregon OutBack in order to be closer to my son and grand daughter. My wife who is a cancer survivor and has other disabling medical problems, also wanted to be closer to family in our declining years, so we settled on an acreage allowing us room for our dogs and a little "breathing" room.

With the high cost of real estate at the time of our move from a more Urban location, we were restricted to very rural property, That equates with "isolated" as far as services are concerned. The nearest health club is sixty some miles away and over a very inhostitable mountain pass during most of the year as this area of the desert has a killing frost every month of the year and ice on the passes at some point every month.

I've been a life long "Gym Rat" so am not disparaging health clubs at all and if I was closer to one I'd still be refining my muscle structure with the use of mechanical and free weights.

With my wife's illness and other stressors of day to day life, I found my weight ballooned from 190 to 285 pounds. Read here also a foolish lack of restraint in the prescense of pastries and high fat food.

I have been a life long devotee of canine companionship and my most relaxing leisure activities have always been training and interacting with my dogs and the dogs of others.

I have trained my own dogs to hunt, perform obedience, and have trained both patrol dogs and narcotics detector dogs for law enfocement. This has always been as a volunteer or as an amature participant. I loved the chance to work with all sorts of canine personalities.

When it became imperative that I pull my weight down for health reasons, I was concerned about the problematic nature of time and travel constraints presented by my location in "The OutBack".

That's when I decided that I would forego the body sculpting weight stacks and machines for the love of time spent with three dogs that shared our home.

I must confess that I had opted for the rudiments of obedience from the furry part of our family as I aged and medical appointments for my wife consumed the major portion of my focus.

They were all good dogs in their own way, but pretty well had life under their own control. Since they didn't eat the mattresses or break out windows while we were gone to town, I contented myself with their attention for petting and quiet companionship in the evenings. I was short changing both my dogs and myself.

Six months ago I decided to resolve this deficiency in my favor and the dogs'.

Big drum roll here.....TA DAA! I have lost 53 pounds in the intervening six months and the weight loss goes on. I am confident that I will be able to lose the remaining 32 pounds within a year with a continued training and exercise regimen. This will put me at my old weight of 190 by next spring with a healthy time frame for the weight loss and giving my skin time to contract along with the loss of fat. At 66 there is some lack of resilency in my old hide but by filling the void between my skin and the fat lost with some muscle, I don't look to be a candidate for a tummy tuck at this time.

I really need one of those muscle to fat ratio weight scales but since the skin is staying fairly taut, it is not an emergency purchase just yet.

Of course, my dogs were pretty large so there was considerable strength involved in some of our games. I, sadly, lost my big guy during this time to cancer. He was a 185 pound Presa Canario and a real handful at the best of times. His decline was rapid and he passed over the bridge as soon as the pain became too debilitating for him to enjoy our time together. Before he left us he spent some time in new training exercises and found greater happiness in activity than in the relaxation that was the normal day to day before we got back to the business of play.

That's what it is......Play.

In all training, dogs need to play in order to learn. It is the normal method of growth and learning in all canine species. It is also an essential element of canine social structure. I failed to reflect on that under pressure from other of life's problems and failed my dogs in doing so. They steadfastly remained faithful and well behaved despite my failure to engage them in play. I regret deeply the lost time with my big guy, Zeke.

The gal in the picture attached to this how to, is a four year old English Mastiff/ Boxer cross. Her name is Sunshine and never did a name more perfectly fit.

Our other fur kid is a Miniture Schnauzer rescue with a life so battered by neglect and unenlightened treatment that he will never fully rehabilitate. The poor little guy doesn't know he is a dog. He was the product of a puppy mill and was caged by himself from weaning until he was rescued. His lack of development during the critical puppyhood stage has prevented him from identifying as a dog and he didn't get the opportunity to imprint as a human either. The biggest problem with this is that other dogs also don't recognize him as a canine as he displays none of the behavior that other dogs need as clues to place him in the social heirarcy. Since this leads to attacks by other canines, he has come to expect attack from dogs and is defensively dog aggressive. He will need to be protected from his own defects for life. As long as I'm alive, that will be taken care of and there will be detailed instructions left for any rescue operation that might get him after my demise. In a perfect life these things don't happen. But the world isn't perfect so Jake the Schnauzer has to train only with me and Sunshine without exposure to other canine friends.

Jake has another very limiting problem. While he was being prevented from recognizing himself as a dog, he was also being prevented from learning how to play. Jake can't train based on his desire to play because he never developed that aspect of dog behavior. He responds to my direction regarding acceptable behavior because I show him that he must. Jake truly works for treats. Not much else works with him although he doesn't have a lot of bad habits other than an overwhelming desire to kill any living thing larger than himself. Chipmunks, small birds and anything else that shares that size limit don't have a lot of attraction for Jake. He has no prey drive which he also failed to develop. Prey drive is linked to play drive in canines. In that regard he only responds to perceived threats of animals the same size and larger than himself. Jake will not pursue a ball rolled across the floor and ignores a lazer spot under his nose. One heck of a challenge to figure out what trips Jake's trigger. Turns out to be fulfillment of purpose. If Jake wants to go to the goat pen to check out the situation, you can get a desired response by preventing and then fulfilling that purpose. IE. If Jake wants to go to the goat pen, first he must perform. Jake will heel on my left as long as he knows he must in order to be allowed to proceed with his agenda. Funny little guy. The only dog I've ever trained that had as his reward fulfillment of curiosity. Go Outside?, is a big part of Jake's motivating purpose. Of course, treats work too.

I've developed size specific exercises for both dogs that firm my bod and burns calories without an excessive calorie burn that leads to muscle loss in excess.

A word here about that very important subject. An excessive calorie expenditure leads to muscle loss as well as fat loss. One of the biggest muscles in your body is your heart. Remember that when you desire huge weight losses quickly. You lose all weight across the spectrum of your body. Body part specific weight loss doesn't happen. You can certainly tone specific body parts and target muscle growth with specific exercises, but when the weight is coming off, it is whole body involvement, so if you start excessive muscle loss, the heart is going to be losing the same percentages as your thighs. Just saying!!!!

The following will point you towards some activities that have worked for me and resulted in happier, calmer and better behaved dogs. Of course they weren't badly behaved to begin with other than Jake's murderous instincts and those don't seem to be diminishing.

Things You Will Need

A dog!

A collar and leash if you train in a populated area.

Toys. (Ones the dog likes.)

A good pair of shoes. I find that track shoes are the next best thing to running and playing in your bare feet. ( The joys of bare footedness are often times touted by people who forget to mention broken glass, rusty nails and other yucky stuff.)

An open area with steep hills works best, but you can do this in your living room if so constrained.

An open mind and the desire to understand what motivates your dog. ( A good book to help you along is Why Does My Dog Act That Way? by Stanley Coren.)

The strength and health to engage in some strenous exercise while playing. ( Check your health status before beginning any strenuous activity.)

Step 1

Leash train that dog.

For years, dog trainers swore by the use of choke chains to teach your dog to lead on leash. They still work, but it seems that the skill needed to effectively use choke chains has been lost to mankind.

Choke chains don't work to effectively train a happy, well adjusted dog if the chain is used to choke.

Many trainers today swear by the "clicker" method of training. That method relies on sound as a method of reward and attention getting.

That's also the reason that choke chains work. The "zip" of the chain links being taken up in slack is the attention getter and notice to your dog to focus. Tightening the chain until it chokes or restrains the dog is punishment pure and simple. Dogs learn behavior through play, not punishment.

If you don't have the skill to use the choke as a sound generator, get a halter headstall that prevents the dog from progressing in it's intended direction for times when control is called for.

Hopefully you'll have gained your dogs' attention before you take it to places where it must be controlled for it's own protection.

That's part of the fun for you and most of the fun for your four footed sidekick.

Start with a pup or start with an older dog. If the dog has developed normally with a play/prey drive the process will work.

Get the dog's attention with a toy. Try several until you find his favorite.

Zeke's was the Kong.

Sunshine loved her soccer ball until she grew enough to close her teeth on the ball.

I bought one of the hard plastic indestructible balls that is just large enough to prevent her closing her mouth on it. It's advertised as being able to withstand the jaws of lions. I have my doubts since Sunshine shreds Kongs like they were eggs, but so far she hasn't punctured the hard ball.

Jake has no toys although I can get his attention easily if I ask him if he wants to "Go Outside?" He stands while we put on the leash or no doors open.

Once you have the dog's attention you must provide the wanted effect. Play. Throw it! Play tug with it! But above all! Control it! It's your decision as to when the game ends. This will focus your dog's desire to be in your presence since you are the key to all things desired. Command "give" or some other simple instruction to signal the end of the game. Reward the dog's submission to the command. Nothing but good stuff happening when you're around. This process must include the unfailing response to come to you when called and surrender of the toy to your possession. Do not reward failure in the entire process and punishment must consist of an immediate cessation of the game.

Please note that this can be in your livingroom or any enclosed space in which you can control the dog's response.

If the dog initially refuses to come and release the toy, you can put a leash on his collar and bring the dog to a standstill and walk up and take the toy, but ideally the dog will learn to play the game without restraint. If the dog has been normally allowed to develop, it will have learned this game with it's littermates and unless it has become the alpha of the litter will respond with no resistence.

The alpha may want to resist , but taking the toy and placing it out of the dog's reach will establish that you make the decisions.

If the dog resists with aggression, you have a problem that requires more help than I can give here and I suggest you call a local dog behavior specialist. Please remember that you can't out aggress the dog without solidifying a problem behavior.

Before starting a program that requires the dog being placed in a situation wherein the dog's decision to undertake it's own agenda takes precedent over your commands, make sure that the dog's response to coming to you and relinquishing his toy is 100%. It should take two weeks or less of daily sessions to be confident in the dog's response.

After you have the dog's attention focused, take the favorite toy in hand and place the dog on the leash with whatever control collar you choose and then start walking. The dog will follow if you've done the initial work with the toy sucessfully. You'll know this if the dog brings and surrenders the toy without fail each time you give the commands to "Come" and "Give".

Once out in public, it becomes essential that the dog follow on leash without excursions into the neighbor's garbage can or examination of health status of local felines. IE "Think you can out run me Sylvester?".

This is where the control aspects of your chosen collar/headstall comes in. The stopping potential of a choke chain is what endeared it to several generations of trainers and punishment of unwanted behavior does have it's place. I just don't really like hurting my furry Buds. The various head stall type restraints redirect the dog's vision and thus impede it's visual stimuli for pursuit or investigation. I haven't had a lot of success with them as far as a learning tool though. They don't seem to learn that having their head realigned is connected to my displeasure.

I slip a split ring through the links of my choke chains at a point that keeps the chain from tightening on the dog's throat. The dog is restrained without being choked and the noise of the first links "zipping" through the collar's operating ring, sends the message that this sound signals a cessation of your activity buddy. Then I do the punishment thing with an immediate 180 degree turn which signals cessation of play time. It makes this sound immediately before restraint and as most proponents of "clicker" training will point out, the timing of the click must be immediate with the recognition of behavior signaled. Get late with the clicker and the dog's attention span has moved on. The "zip" is always "on time".

Simply twitching the lead so as to "zip" the links through operating ring, signals the dog to focus just as the clicker does. Of course there must be rewards for desired behavior as the "zip" is a negative. I like "petting' and Sunshine always ends her training sessions with a pet in which she places her front paws on something elevated so I can scratch her chest since we decided that her desire to lick when petted on the head was not an endearing quality. The process has discouraged licking while being vet checked.

Step 2

Design an exercise program that burns calories and builds strength and fitness.

Zeke and I tussled over the Kong for twenty or thirty minutes at a time. I threw the Kong over a Juniper tree limb so that Zeke pulled against the rope and the tree limb which kept me out of the equation as far as competition for the Kong was concerned. He was pulling on something attached to a tree rather than trying to take the Kong from me. Zeke was alpha and aggressive so contending for possession aroused undesirable instincts although he would reliably release the Kong on command as long as I wasn't percieved as withholding it from him. Even with the leverage of a eight foot drop from the limb, playing tug with a 185 pound Presa is a work out.

I walked the acreage with Zeke before getting to his Juniper tree. I've left the Kong in the tree since Zeke's passing.

Jake and I have a relay race to see who gets to the secret cookie stash first. I show him the cookie and he focuses. Then we rush to the suspected hideout and I fall to my knees to see if there is indeed a cookie buried in the Juniper leaves. Jake assists. If the little guy ever gets worn out by this game, I haven't had the stamina to find out so far. We have a wet weather streambed on the property that has developed into a thirty foot deep arroya. I can say that racing to the top of this arroya has been a big contributor to my weight loss. (Always remember that the key to weightloss and fitness is exercise and rest. I rest after a strenuous bout of cookie searches on the hill. The intervening two or three days has been a consistant weight loss sucess for me.)

Sunshine and I play tug on the ground with a hard rubber toy attached to a nylon rope loop and then inspect all aspects of the acreage's integrity. This includes the aforementioned arroya.

Everybody goes for walks, which occasional windsprints. (The track shoes come in particularly handy here and in the foot races up the side of the arroya. Relearn how to run on your toes. Heel strikes wear you out and bust up your skeletal structure.)

There is certainly more to training your dog than playing with it, but the play builds the foundation for the specific commands to perform such instructions as down, stay etc.. Making your dog down is as simple as placing the favorite toy on the floor and not releasing it for play until the dog has dropped to it's abdomen. Sit is easily accomplished by placing the dog with it's hindquarters against the wall and moving the toy over the dog's head until it must sit in order to see the toy.

The purpose here was to encourage the playful exercise that will result in weight loss and fitness for both owner and dog and to instruct in how to achieve reliable leash behavior that will allow the outdoor exercise to be enjoyably and safely experienced .

Tips & Warnings

Be sure you are healthy enough to enter into a fitness program of this intensity.

Be sure that the dog's reliability on leash is adequate to safely take the dog into public and the temptations inherent in that situation.

Have the dog vet checked for health as well and see that it has all of it's immunizations and licenses.

Don't over stress yourself or your dog in the beginning. Exercise at a level consistant with your ability.

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