Canine Fitness Program with Bite
Interview with Krista Wickens
I recently spent some time with entrepreneur Krista Wickens, the Founder and CEO of PetZen Products and President of Ball Dynamics. Krista has been in the fitness industry for many years and is an innovator in the canine fitness space. As always, it was nice catching up with her and I was excited to learn more about the new Master Trainer Program that Krista had recently developed.
SlimDoggy: What is your current title/position?
Krista Wickens: President, Ball Dynamics International (FitPAWS and FitBALL) and CEO/Founder, PetZen Products (DogTread)
SD: Tell me about your fitness background and how you ended up in the Canine fitness space?
KW: Sports and fitness have always been a part of my life. I played women’s basketball in college and started my career in the human fitness industry with industry leader ICON. My first project was helping to create a program that would generate a treadmill workout based on the user’s fitness goals. It was ahead of its time, I think. As a dog lover, I found that there was a need to keep dogs fit, the same trends that plague people were showing up in the dogs. However, there were no products made specifically for dogs to help them stay fit. Our first product was a dog treadmill that was designed to work with a dog’s four legged body. As a result, I took the plunge and launched my company and our first product, the DogTread canine treadmill was created.
SD: We have used many of your canine fitness products with your own dogs. Which of your products is the most popular with dog owners? Why do you think that is?
KW: The most popular is the K9Fitbone, followed by the agility kits. The K9FITbone is so popular because it is low to the ground, easy to use and we added exercise cards to help people get started with it at home. I think the reason that the agility kits are so popular is because the sport of agility is gaining in popularity and our kit makes it easy to set up a multifunctional (e.g. change of direction, over, under, etc.) environment in your own back yard, at a very reasonable price.
SD: I recently heard a little about your new Master Training Program that you are launching. It sounded pretty awesome. Tell us a little about this course and why it is quickly selling out?
KW: We are focused 100% on the dogs. Our course is meant to teach participants how to safely exercise a dog and to use a varied set of equipment and modalities to do so. Strength, balance, mobility, cardio and more are all covered. We teach our students how to create and implement effective workouts for dogs.
SD: It sounds like your students learn to design real workouts that will provide real benefit to their overall strength and fitness?
KW: Yes. Real workouts that are multifaceted and focus on safety and proper form. Proper form and engagement is crucial in attaining a higher level of fitness for dogs. Dogs need to be consistently challenged mentally and physically. Some dogs can run for 5 miles and still be destructive. Why? Because they are not engaging their brain too. Once you learn how to put together a fitness program safely to exercise a dog, then you can incorporate this into a duel workout- human and dog- that will be effective for both parties.
SD: What are the prerequisites for someone to enroll in the Master Training Course?
KW: We require that attendees have dog handling experience. Dog training skills and an understanding of how to get dogs to perform basic cues is also important for shaping a fitness program that helps the dog use its body for fitness.
SD: Can you tell us more about your partnership with the College of Veterinarian Medicine at the University of Tennessee?
KW: We have just finalized a partnership with UoT where we will combine our Master Trainer program with their online classroom studies. The new certificate program – Certified Canine Fitness Trainer (CCFT) is the first of its kind through a University. Half of the course will be online, approx. 25+ hours, and will focus on anatomy, biomechanics, injury prevention and other relevant topics. The other half is a hands on lab portion (previously known as our FitPAWS Master Trainer) that will be offered at our training facility in Longmont, CO. Attendees must complete both sections to achieve the credentialed title of CCFT. We are extremely excited about the standards of excellence this will bring to Canine Fitness.
SD: What are the dates and locations for the next round of programs?
KW: Sep 9-11 and Sep 23-25, in Colorado. We are working on future dates and locations
SD: Where can people learn more about the course?
The UofT – CCFT program has just been confirmed and we will provide more information on how to complete the entire program in the coming weeks. Those that have completed and passed the Master Trainer program can then qualify for the online course to complete the CCFT.
SD: What is your biggest frustration about the canine fitness industry right now? Do you think that it is an impediment to growing the industry?
KW: My biggest frustration is that fitness is often treated as an afterthought. So much can be prevented through exercise – disease, behavior issues, and injuries. My hope is that more of us can spread the message of a proactive lifestyle, not a reactive lifestyle. Secondly, is that there is a right way and a wrong way to think about fitness. Knowledge does not always equal understanding. Our goal is to help more people understand the building blocks of effective form and safe ways to keep dogs fit and healthy. Just because a dog can jump over an obstacle doesn’t mean he/she is engaging the right muscles required, often there are compensations because the dog has not been conditioned properly. The more we can educate on the right methods the better connections we will have with our dogs and the longer they will compete, work, or live with us.