Fitness Tips I Learned from my Dogs: Power of the Pack

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We have one more post in our “Fitness Tips I Learned from my Dogs” series, where we discuss some of the personal training tips we have learned from observing our dogs. The topic today, which we call the “power of the pack”, has been germinating in my mind for some time. Serendipitously, I stumbled on an article that spoke about the benefits of working out in a group and that was enough inspiration to write this post.

 

Pack Animals

Based on their lineage to wolves, dogs are mostly considered to be pack animals. Although there is some debate as to whether this holds true for today’s domesticated dogs, we are going to go with the assumption that at their core, dogs are, indeed happier in a pack environment (even if that means the pack is a mix of humans and other pets). Based on my own personal experiences, my dogs have always preferred to be members of a pack and have been able to establish and follow a hierarchical pecking order amongst the members.

 

When it comes to exercise, it seems that dogs are on to something.

slimdoggy pack

 

The Power of Pack (Group) Exercise

I had long been happy to exercise on my own, without any training partners and I usually shunned group classes. This all changed about 13 years ago when I was talked into trying a group boot camp class that involved lots of running, sprinting, hills, plyometrics, and other intense exercises. After one session, I was hooked. And I do mean hooked. The sense of euphoria that I felt (and still feel) after the workout was unlike anything else I had experienced with any type of exercise. I chalked it up to the intensity and that my Endocannabinoid system was fully stimulated. It turns out that the high intensity training is only partially responsible for my “runner’s high”.

 

In a 2009 study published in Biology Letters, researchers found that working out in a group can lead to an increase in the pain threshold, and thus an increase in the body’s release of endorphin type chemicals when compared with working out solo. This is exactly what I have experienced at my boot camp, and many of my boot camp friends have confirmed that they feel a similar effect.

 

Getting an extra dose of runner’s high is reason enough to give a group workout a try. Yet, there are several other benefits to working out with other people.

  • More accountability- having one or more people expect you to show up will definitely increase the chances that you will show up and not skip the workout.
  • Improved fitness from competition- when working out with others, there is often a competitive vibe that can help the participants push harder than if they were alone. Whether your group is ultra competitive or not, the fact is that there will likely be some added boost in performance based on the competitive juices and this will result in improved fitness for the entire group.
  • More fun- it can be a lot more fun to exercise with people and pets that you enjoy being around. The more fun the workouts are, the more likely that you will look forward to them which is a sure way to stay consistent with your fitness program.

 

Back to Dogs

The best place to see the power of the pack and its effect on a dog’s activity? Look no further than the dog park. There is always a lot going on and dogs of all ages and sizes are often running around with much energy and enthusiasm. We used to see this behavior with Sally and Tino, who would go crazy when we brought them to the park or when some of their doggy friends would stop by our home for a play date. If your dog is seemingly bored with your regular walks or runs, perhaps it is time to leverage the power of the pack and go to a dog park, sign up for a doggy fitness class, or simply schedule some play dates with fellow dog owners. It just might be the smartest way to kick start their weight loss or fitness program. Better yet, make sure to join them as they frolic in the park and you will burn some extra calories yourself.

 

Further Reading

http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2009/09/14/rsbl.2009.0670.full

http://www.caninemind.co.uk/pack.html

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27 Comments

  1. Everything is better in a pack, even if it is only a pack of two. Just being in your own yard with two, you can have some fun, where if you were alone it would be boring. Mom gets tons of running motivation when running with a dog. I think this is all very true.
    Emma recently posted…Big Nose Work News For Me!My Profile

  2. I prefer the company of Easy :o) He never laughs when I give up :o)
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog SHOW AND TELL – A HAIRY TAILMy Profile

  3. If it weren’t for my 3 “knuckleheads”, I probably wouldn’t get any exercise at all.
    Callie, Shadow, and Ducky\’s Mom recently posted…ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, MOMMy Profile

  4. Hi Y’all!

    When you’re a rural livin’ dog in the southeast, dog’s aren’t part of the family like city dogs, for the most part. Dog parks? What are they? Play dates? Rural dogs run free all the time, sometimes roaming into roads and getting killed or lost. Other rural dogs are hunting dogs…bird dogs, bear dogs, pig dogs…and live in kennels when not working. Mountain areas, it’s rare to see a dog unless they are kenneled working dogs. Low lands, you see lots of dogs roaming with no collars or tags. Most areas have no leash or license laws. Peoples ideas towards dogs? or cats? If it’s hairy it doesn’t belong in the house.

    Sigh, thank heavens my Humans aren’t typical!

    Y’all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog
    Hawk aka BrownDog recently posted…Parading a Fun and Funny Friday!My Profile

  5. It makes sense! I know I probably get up and get moving on some days because of the dogs when I might just curl up in a ball on the couch after work. They are great motivators!
    houndstooth recently posted…The BootMy Profile

  6. I agree! A pack is more fun, whether it’s just Rocco and me or we join a group of our friends. We love joining our dog meetup group for a hike, meeting friends for a walk and even a real workout is more fun with furry pals! (not that these aren’t ALL real workouts!) Happy FitDog Friday!
    Diane recently posted…Getting a Start on Our First Full Agility SeasonMy Profile

  7. When people ask mom how she keeps fit she answers, “I have three dogs”. BOL! Great post, wish we had dog parks around here but sadly there aren’t many.
    Miley’s Daily Scoop recently posted…A War Between Two DogsMy Profile

  8. I find group classes to be very motivating. A little healthy competition makes you really give it your all 🙂

  9. I just read an article this morning about dogs experiencing “runners high.” http://jeb.biologists.org/content/215/8/1331.abstract?sid=739917de-aaf2-469d-9f3a-ab04329720b7

    I had no idea they could experience it. They tested humans, dogs, and ferrets. Both humans and dogs had increased Endocannabinoids after exercisel; the ferrets did not.

    I definitely agree that dogs seem to thrive in the pack environment. It makes me so happy to see my dog running around and having fun with a bunch of her canine friends.
    Jen Jelly recently posted…Jogging Can Be Harmful To PuppiesMy Profile

  10. Dogs make everything more fun!
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…The Truth of Bassets & Bees ~ A Fractured Fryday Hairy TailsMy Profile

  11. I prefer working out with other people/dogs. We usually go hiking with Sage and my workout classes are all group ones.

  12. Very good article! I have got to check out one of those boot camp classes. They sound fun!
    Rama’s Mama recently posted…Thursday Barks & Bytes & ThoughtFUL ThursdayMy Profile

  13. Great post! My dogs LOVE going to the dog park. It is not an every day occurrence so they are always super excited to go and run!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…10 most dangerous dog breedsMy Profile

  14. Great post. Its always good to have a group to help get motivated.
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…Water BlindsMy Profile

  15. Great post and collage of pictures! My gang loves to exercise in a pack because they all have to out do each other so it keeps them going.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Black And White Sunday~Happy Labor DayMy Profile

  16. Hmm, I only find exercising pleasant with others if the others can’t talk. That makes dogs perfect workout partners.

    My husband loves to talk about how miserable running is when we run together. But Honey never complains.
    Pamela recently posted…The Curse Of A Perfect DogMy Profile

  17. So true! While I do like working out on my own, I think you’re right about the benefits of group exercise. I do miss my swim team days. I don’t know if I’ve worked that hard since then because the power of the group definitely pushed me a lot harder.
    Lindsay recently posted…How to stop a dog from peeing in her kennel or crateMy Profile

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