Did you know that 85% of pet owners find exercise more enjoyable when they have their pet by their side? Or that dog-owners are significantly more motivated to exercise than non-dog-owners?
These Purina survey results certainly ring true for me! I was always of the cat-like, couch potato persuasion prior to finding this bouncing, tugging, excitable chap at the end of a leash. Bodie got me on my feet and has given me a taste for the great outdoors, something I rarely encountered as I was permanently attached to my laptop. I remember the first time I caught myself romping alongside him on the beach – I’d only ever sprinted to catch a train but here I was doing it for fun because his enthusiasm was contagious. (Could you resist this face?)
Although I know I’ve become more mobile and now own four pairs of jeans (I didn’t have a single pair prior to Bodie!) I’ve never measured his activity levels, so I’m keen to accept Purina’s challenge of testing the FitBark pet fitness tracker…
ON YOUR MARKS, GET SET, FITBARK!
Anyone who knows me would say that asking me to combine technology with exercise (two of my lowest level areas of capability) would be asking for trouble.
Fortunately it’s easy-peasy! The small plastic bone-shaped gadget comes with a charging lead that you need to plug in for 90 minutes prior to use (but lasts an amazing 10 days). In the meantime you download the free FitBark app to your phone and fill in a few details about your dog including weight, age and breed.
You can add primary and secondary breeds if your dog is a mix, or go for the all-mutt option if you have a unique blend like Bodie.
Next you pick an activity level target from Average, Active and Olympian. Naturally I feel that Bodie is anything but Average but looking at the definition (likes his snuggle time and a couple of walks a day) and acknowledging that at 9 he’s slowing down, that’s the one I pick. This gives us a daily target of 5,100 Bark Points to hit. (This will of course be different for every dog.)
It’s worth watching the video message on how to attach the gadget to your dog’s collar and ensuring you hear the click to confirm it is securely in place. Your pup can then sport it with pride, in five color-ways including gray (pictured here).
And we’re off! Well, nearly. I was pleased to note that even the inevitable faffing that occurs before I leave the house – Oh, it’s colder than I thought, let me just change my top! – Have I got enough poo bags? – Now where did I put the keys? – was clocking up points as Bodie paced expectantly.
Determined to knock this out of the park (quite literally) we head for a local woodland walk that encircles a lake rippling with ducks and kayakers.
I felt myself pacing at more of a clip than usual, geeing Bodie up and encouraging him to break up his relentless sniffing with some playful runs. He shimmied under a bridge and splashed in the stream, bounded up the bank, dodged the muddiest, sludgiest puddle while also spattering it up onto me and basically had so much fun he had to lie down three times on the way back home.
I then had to step out for 3 hours, leaving Bodie to snooze. Or so I thought. When I returned I was surprised to see how many Bark Points he had racked up. I eyed the old CD I’d left in the boom box, wondering if he’d hit play and had a private party.
I can see him pogo-ing on his hind legs to NSync’s Bye Bye Bye.
But then it dawned on me that he gets points from sleeping too. (Your dog’s day is divided into three categories: Rest, Active and Play as you can see here…)
It was gratifying to note that we hit Bodie’s target before he had his evening stroll. But on Day 2, with all its surprise distractions (including a visit from the fire brigade!) we got to 5pm and we weren’t even halfway to our goal. But that was okay. Because now I knew that our second walk needed to be amped up with a bit of jogging.
On Day 3 I wanted to see how much playing impacted his activity levels so in the afternoon I took out a frisbee and a tennis ball and a squeaky toy, just to cover all bases! Mid-way through we got a ‘Woohoo!’ message telling us Bodie had exceeded his goal and thus deserved a treat. He accepted this with great vigor!
IN CONCLUSION: I could continue giving you a day by day account of our tracking (like today we walked the gardens of a National Trust property and normally I wouldn’t have a clue how much of a workout that would be – except I was panting – and it surprised me by fulfilling our quota). The upshot is this: I love using a doggie fitness tracker! I check it at random throughout the day and this newfound curiosity has made me extra conscious of my responsibilities to both Bodie’s health and my own. Because, chances are, if he’s not moving enough then neither am I!
It’s not just the FitBark that has me fired up. I recently attended a Purina-hosted Google Hangout with veterinarian Dr. Kurt Venator and it was so motivating to hear of their collective aim to help pets and owners live bigger, healthier, happier lives together. As I listened to his advice (more dog health & fitness tips here), it really hit home just how much humans and pets are in this fitness thing together. Previously I’d thought I was doing my duty exercising Bodie every day and that the walks and nature rambles were a passive, sideline bonus for me. Now I think of us as a workout team as we step out into the world, even if it is at leisurely pace…
Dr Kurt also gave us food for thought about diet (I’m more mindful of my treat-giving and portion-allotment now) and made some great suggestions for turning the fitness of your dog into a more social activity: at home he involves his whole family in exercising his Golden Retrievers, explaining how he has matched the energy level of each dog with the child of a similar temperament!
If, like me, you are lacking offspring to enlist you can upgrade a sedentary coffee with a friend to a dog walk & coffee date (thus benefitting a third party!)
Or think about scheduling your phonecalls during dog-walking hours so you can multi-task and thus walk a little longer. I used to do this every morning in San Diego – calling my friends and family when it was evening in the UK and they were free to chat. It worked a treat!
Now if only talking to our dogs was enough to stimulate their mental activity as this is another key factor in their wellbeing. Games are a great asset and top of my shopping list now is a slow feeder dog bowl which brings a puzzle element to dinner time.
One final tip – on excessively hot or rainy days, Dr Kurt had the great idea of inviting a few local dogs around for a cool, dry basement (or perhaps empty garage) playdate. There’s nothing that exhausts a dog more than playing with his pals. If you think about it, a lot of daycare facilities don’t have huge yards but they know that get the pups together and they will have the equivalent of a doggie aerobics class with all the jumping and frolicking. Even if it’s just you and Fido in a small apartment (Bodie and I are studio-dwellers) you can drain doggie energy with a good tug toy tussle!
As this infographic states – who needs a personal trainer when you’ve got a pet!
This post was sponsored by Purina but we dig their aim to drive the health and well-being of pets and owners so we can all live bigger, healthier and happier lives.
For lots more great pet health information, please visit www. purina.com.
US FitBark is available for around $69.95 from FitBark.com
UK Fitbark is available from Amazon.co.uk for £59.95