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Add Some Woof! to Your Workout
Date:12/31/2009

for Americans.

Pets need regular workouts, too. Veterinarians suggest that adult dogs engage in 20 to 30 minutes of heart-pumping exercise daily.

For some people, getting fit is made easier by teaming up with a furry workout partner.

Jacqueline Epping, of the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said people who care about their dog's well-being are more willing to engage in physical activities with them.

"There is evidence to support [the theory that] dogs motivate some people to get active and stay active," Epping said.

But doggie boot camps do more than just focus on fitness. Enlistees also get the added bonus of obedience training for a better-behaved pet.

"By stimulating [dogs'] minds and their bodies at the same time, they're 20 times more tired than just an average walk," according to dog trainer Jill Bowers, who started Thank Dog! Bootcamp last year with her twin sister, Jamie.

And a tired dog is a happy dog. Veterinarians at Tufts University's Animal Behavior Clinic say aerobic exercise stimulates the brain to make serotonin, a mood-stabilizing chemical that produces feelings of contentment and helps dogs, especially those who are anxious or aggressive, to relax.

At Thank Dog! Bootcamp, both a certified personal trainer and dog trainer lead clients in the hour-long class, held five days a week, barking out orders like drill sergeants.

The outdoor classes attract a lot of onlookers. "It's very visually stimulating," explained Bowers. "Imagine 15 to 20 people all telling their dogs to sit at the same time, and all the dogs doing it."

If owners can't participate, their dogs still can through the "Borrow Me" program, where a "cadet" takes them through the program. Pooches are also available for loan if you want to attend but don't own a dog.

Camps are offered in several California
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