Expect to pick up more than just weights if you enlist in Thank Dog! Bootcamp, a new fitness and obedience program.
“We clean up our poop. It’s one of the rules of class,” says owner and personal trainer Karen Krieg, who’d been looking for a way to merge her two loves: fitness and dogs. She found her inspiration while watching Animal Planet’s Dogs 101.
The show highlighted the work of Thank Dog!, which was founded in Burbank, Calif., in 2008 by Jill Bowers and her twin sister, Jamie. Bowers, a highly regarded dog trainer, had struggled with her weight until committing to a boot camp. Forty pounds peeled off, but she didn’t like spending all that time away from her Doberman pinscher. Her mission? Create a boot camp they could do together.
“Knowing that some people don’t have control over their dogs, I also wanted to add obedience. And I wanted to make it fun for humans,” says Bowers.
Each hour-long class is divided into 10-minute segments, alternating between cardio drills combined with dog commands and strength-building circuits (performed by just the humans).
That breakdown works, she explains, because dogs can’t be trained for more than 10 minutes at a time. Plus, after 10 minutes of sprinting, high knees and shuffle steps, everyone’s panting. “They need water, and the humans do, too,” Bowers says.
Students in L.A. have lapped it up, and as the program has gotten media attention — most recently, on an episode of Dog Whisperer With Cesar Millan in August — there’s been demand to expand to other cities.
But replicating Thank Dog! isn’t as simple as learning a few commands. “There’s an amount of organization and creativity needed to keep it safe and interesting. It’s not just running around a park with dogs,” says Noelle Blessey, who took over as Bowers’ partner when her sister decided to pursue Transcendental Meditation.
The gradual expansion started a year and a half ago, when Thank Dog! was licensed in Toronto. It’s since spread to Chicago, Cleveland, Boston and the Washington area.
Charlotte Labeau, 25, was beaming with pride over her pug Harry’s progress in just one class. “I’m shocked. He sits and stays for more than two seconds,” she said. “And he’ll heel. He’s never done that before.”
Obedience wasn’t on Keith Bare’s mind as much as weight. The 51-year-old said he was there with Titus, his Tibetan terrier, to get a workout. “I want to keep me from getting fat and him from getting fat,” he said.
We started working on that by getting in a single-file line and jogging around the field. And it was our turn to be obedient as Krieg shouted out commands. We had to get our dogs to sit (we continued jogging in place) and get down (yep, still jogging), get them back up again and then let them run forward while we shuffled sideways, changed directions, and eventually made our way to home base.