E348: Kelly Daniel - Beyond the Basics: Getting Geeky About Fitness

Canine Fitness is one of those topics that can become as sophisticated as you want to make it! Today Kelly and I talk about what it's like to get geeky about fitness. 


Melissa Breau: This is Melissa Breau and you're listening to the Fenzi Dog Sports Podcast brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. An online school dedicated to providing high quality instruction for competitive dog sports, using only the most current and progressive trending methods. Today I have Kelly Daniel back on the podcast to dig deeper into canine fitness. Hi Kelly. Welcome back to the podcast.

Kelly Daniel: Hi. Thank you for having me. I'm happy to be here.

Melissa Breau: Super excited to chat. So to start us off, do you wanna just remind listeners a little bit about you and your current canine crew?

Kelly Daniel: Yep. So I am Kelly, I'm lucky enough to live in New Zealand, which is a very cool place. You might be able to tell from my accent.

I have five dogs of my own. I've got an old Border Collie, Chase, she's my first proper competition dog. And then I have a terrier cross, we think Chihuahua who is a little bit of a difficult dog to live with, but he's my most successful agility dog. He's a weird little beast. And then I have a younger Border Collie, Evolution, and then I've got two working Cocker Spaniels that are my competition dogs, but they're also school support dogs in the high school that I work at.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. So I wanna start off by talking about the basics and then maybe go deeper on some of the specifics about canine fitness. So what are the basics? What are kind of the core concepts that people need to learn about canine fitness and they're just starting to kind of explore it?

Kelly Daniel: Cool. So the first thing I guess is that if you're having to go at Canine Fitness, you are awesome and doing something is better than nothing and I really appreciate people that are starting and having a go. I think the thing that you need to consider with Canine Fitness is making sure that it's suitable for your dog and you're doing it in a way that is useful and gonna cause some positive benefits rather than potentially any harm.

So finding out about equipment, finding out about what you should be doing in a single workout and then kind of all of the different types of fitness that you should be doing and then also starting to develop your understanding of form with your individual dogs that are kind of the key things to start thinking about.

Melissa Breau: So how much do people need to understand about like canine anatomy in order to work on this stuff or train fitness exercises with their dogs? Are there key pieces of anatomy that maybe it's most important to understand?

Kelly Daniel: Yeah, definitely. So being able to understand the musculoskeletal system in a small amount is definitely useful and most of us have enough understanding with how our bodies work to be able to apply that to their dog. So you need to kind of understand the basics of that. Your dog has a skeleton that's like the framework for their body and how they hold themselves and how they move.

The bones in the skeleton are joined at the joints and the joints are the parts that allow the movement and then the muscles attach to those bones and go over the joints and they're the parts that create the movements. So being able to understand those basics will really give you a good head start. And kind of leading on from that, as your understanding develops, being able to look at an individual dog and its structure or its bones will really help you understand if that dog is holding good form or if it's their structure that's kind of impacting how they might be standing or moving. And as you kind of keep diving in, being able to understand a little bit of where the muscles are and how they work will really help you understand sort of the purpose of exercises and picking things that work for your individual dog and their needs.

You kind of mentioned form before I asked you about anatomy, so I wanna talk about that a little more. So obviously it's gonna vary a little bit from exercise to exercise, but are there like key ideas that you can understand maybe from a high level? And then what kind of things should listeners kind of keep in mind when they're thinking about form during the actual exercises with their dog?

So form is definitely a term that you see a lot and you hear a lot, but sometimes we don't really understand what it means. So I like to define form as a dog's ability to hold itself in a position or move and we kind of have like correct ways of doing these and we can look at key indicators of how they are moving or how they're holding themselves to help us understand if they're holding good form.

So before we go into those key indicators, I think it's really important to think about like the things that can impact form. 'cause there's some things that are not to do with you at all. So a dog's structure will impact form. So being able to learn a little bit about structure will really help you understand, is my dog standing badly because of understanding all their muscles or are they standing like that because that's how they skeleton is built.

Sometimes we see issues in form and that can be a red flag or even changes in form a red flag for an issue that you need to get your dog checked out for. So there are definitely red flags of things that might be an injury or something that's not working properly, even an illness sometimes. And it's really important we start to develop our understanding so that we can tell when we need to get our dogs checked. Does that make sense?

Melissa Breau: Yeah, yeah, Yeah.

Kelly Daniel: So the indicators that we generally look at for form, we need to look at the dog's body and there's a couple of points we can look at in our dog's body generally that will give us an indication of form. So when they're holding a position, I like to go from the feet up. So I'm looking at the back feet, I'm looking at if their toes are aligned level with each other, I'm looking at the, they're pointing forwards or toeing out or toeing in, I'm looking if they're evenly weighted. And then I'm looking at the same thing on the front legs as well. Are they level with one another? Are they toeing out, are they toeing in, are they evenly weighted?

Depending on how they're sitting we can then go up and look at the joints above that and we're looking for similar things. Are they aligned correctly? If the bones are meant to be straight up and down, like if they're standing, are they straight up and down? So are the hawks straight when they're standing, are they forearms straight and under the shoulders?

We can keep moving upwards. Then the next point I generally look at is the core and their back. So their top line, I'm looking for a strong engaged core and generally we can see that in the top line. So is their back straight and strong or is it curving upwards and curing downwards? And then we wanna look at their head position. So as their head going straight or as it turned to the side or twisted, generally we want their head to be in a natural position relative to their spine. And often that would be within nose kind of level with the ground. So that's like a lot of indicators, but generally in my head I go, does that dog look like it's standing nicely? Does it look like it's sitting nicely? If it's not, then I'm gonna go and look for those specific indicators to see what part of their body is not holding great form.

Melissa Breau: When you were talking about the neutral head position and said level with the ground, you kind of mean in parallel, right? So like their muzzle is…

Kelly Daniel: Yes. Parallel to the ground.

Melissa Breau: Okay. Yeah, just making sure parallel ground.

Kelly Daniel: Yeah. Yeah, I mean the main thing we see in fitness where the form in terms of the head position is an issue is often the dog's head is lifted too high because the handler is too high and that has heaps of implications for the rest of their body because when the dog shifts their head upwards, it actually shifts all their weight backwards. That's how they initiate weight shift backwards by lifting their head. So if a dog's head is lifted, that's gonna potentially impact form in the whole rest of their body as well.

Melissa Breau: So I think that you kind of mentioned something in there that I think is important and this idea that okay, you've got the treat, you've got the handler position, you've got the dog's head, you've got the dog's body, you've got, you know, maybe some props and all lure and you're trying to like simultaneously train the dog and what it is you want them to do and get them to understand the behavior and potentially, you know, also get some stillness. There's a lot going on there. So any tips to make it easier to kind of observe form in the moment or maybe even set things up so that you can evaluate it after the fact?

Kelly Daniel: Yeah, definitely. So it is really hard, especially if you are new and you're learning and it does get better the more that you do. So the more that you watch and not just your own dogs, watch other people's dogs look at photos, look at videos, the more you practice the more you'll get comfortable and you'll get better at evaluating form.

So in the moment, my number one recommendation best that you can manage it in the space that you're working is mirrors. So when I'm working with my dogs, I'm very lucky to have a space. It's literally why I bought my property. I've got a nice training shed, it's got good lighting and I bullied my partner into making me a mirror system.

So with that mirror system where I sit, I can see the back of the dog. So when they're facing me and I can see the side of the dog from where I'm sitting, I don't need to move. I can see all of the views, I understand I'm very lucky to have this, but even just having one mirror or a reflective surface like a window or a glass door or a ranch slider will have a huge impact in being able to assess in correct form there.

And then in the moment, so like my goal this month, because I am picky and I'm geeky with fitness, that's why I like to do these things is I'm trying to make every repetition better. And the only way I can do that is to evaluate in the moment and make changes between individual reps. So a mirror will make a huge difference if you don't have the space.

And we often don't in canine fitness because we are doing it in our living room or in the hallway or wherever we can. So one recommendation is, I know a lot of people store their fitness gear in a cupboard, can you put a mirror on the inside of that cupboard door so when you open it, it swings open. If a mirror swings, it gives you heaps more opportunity to do small adjustments to be able to see the things you need to see. And then the next thing is, if you can't use a reflective surface, if you can't use a mirror, then you're gonna have to set up a camera, do a few reps and stop and review that video footage before you move on.

It's gonna be like, it's gonna feel really slow and it's gonna feel really like cumbersome to do, but it'll allow you to in a session, make immediate improvements. And the cool thing about having everything on video footage is if you see something concerning that you're not sure how to fix, you can send it to a person. If you see something concerning that you think is a red flag that you need to get your dog checked, you have it on video to show the veterinarian because our dogs are really good at looking amazing when we go to the vet or the rehab specialist, aren't They?

Melissa Breau: Yeah. They're excellent at being fantastic at hiding all of the things things. Yeah. I love the tip about the swinging door on the cabinet. I think that's fantastic. And it sounds like maybe people should just always video anyway, even if they also have mirrors they should video.

Kelly Daniel: Yeah, I do and I may, I mean I started initially to obviously create videos as resources for teaching, but it's really made the biggest impact to all of the training that I do because I can, I review it when I edit it before I upload it. So even if I don't look there and then in a session, I almost always sort of scan through that footage. And honestly almost every single session, whether it's canine fitness or my obedience work or my agility work, I pick up a thing I need to fix next session. So it's definitely made a huge impact to me as a trainer and what I'm doing with my dogs.

Kelly Daniel: Yeah, I, it's so valuable to have video footage of you doing the thing and your dog doing the thing and the things that we don't even realize we're doing physically that we're doing that we see on video later.

Melissa Breau: Yeah, yeah. Even Though I like, it's hard, like most of us don't like to be on video, especially watch ourselves. I know it's awkward.

Kelly Daniel: Yeah, I know. Especially if you can see yourself and you can hear yourself, but you know what, you just kind of have to do it.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. So talk to me a little bit about the difference between, you know, kind of dipping a toe into the canine fitness world versus you know, jumping in deep. How deep can you go with this stuff? What are some of the benefits maybe to gaining that more detail of understanding of fitness work with our dogs?

Kelly Daniel: So like I said earlier, even just making a start and having a go is gonna be of benefit to you and your training partnership with your dog and your dog's physical fitness. So as a start point, I am looking at any person having an assessment and having a set program and just working really hard on that program and trying to do the exercises as you see in your instructional videos.

Like that's a really good place to start if you're not too sure what you're doing, just trying to make what your dog is doing in your fitness workout look the same as the videos that you're using as a reference. If they look the same then you're probably gonna be doing it, you know, somewhat correctly. But I mean obviously you can go into a huge amount of depth and the advantage with being able to go deep in the geekiness of canine fitness is that you can really make the exercises and all of the workouts that you're doing much more specific and appropriate for your dog and their needs.

Whether that be their physical and structural needs and just their general physical fitness needs. But also specifically for the sports that you do and the exercises you're doing in your sports, there are so much canine fitness you can do that's specific and going to help your dog with their sports exercises. Even like obedience heel work, you can do specific exercises that will improve your dog's understanding and form of heel work and you can do it in that different context.

So you're building muscle and strength, you're building understanding and you're gonna improve your dog's form not only in the fitness exercises but in your sport. And I think that's the biggest advantage to being able to go super geeky apart from obviously being better physically from your dog is being able to make positive impacts in other areas of their life as well on their training. I like that.

Melissa Breau: Okay, so zooming out for a second, like if you, what are you aiming for? Like big picture when you're kind of creating a balanced fitness routine or a balanced fitness program for a dog and then you know, if you zoom back in, what does that look like kind of at the individual workout level?

Kelly Daniel: So big picture, I'm looking for a program that has balance. I need them to work different aspects of fitness and I also need them to work all the different parts of their bodies in slightly different ways. So what that means is over a week I'm looking at are they doing some strength and balance work? Are they doing some cardiovascular work? Are they doing some flexibility and stretching that kind of the main areas. There's other like little sort of side branches you can go into.

Melissa Breau: Can you repeat them one more time? I think you were sick so I just wanna make sure what were they?

Kelly Daniel: Okay, So, I want 'em to be doing some power and strength work. I want 'em to be doing some balance and stability work and then some cardiovascular work. Yep. A lot of the time with the balance and stability and sometimes the cardiovascular work, we get some proprioception work, which is where the dog has an understanding of where their limbs are in space. So that's kind of another aspect of fitness, but you kind of cover it in those other areas. So that's kind of the big picture. They need to be doing a little bit of each of those things. They might be doing some of them in their walks, they might be doing some of them in their sports specific training. So I kind of like the fitness work to balance out the areas that you're not doing in other places. 'cause we're all time poor. So that's kind of the big picture with fitness is looking at covering those different aspects of fitness. Does that make sense?

Melissa Breau: Yep. Yep.

Kelly Daniel: Okay. What was the other part of the question? Sorry, My brain.

Melissa Breau: Okay, so that's the big picture piece, right? What about if we zoom back in and we're looking at it kind of an individual workout level, how does that, what do you kinda aim for there?

Kelly Daniel:So with an individual workout for any specific dog, I'm kind of looking at those overall core aspects of fitness and making sure I'm covering those.

But I'm also gonna make it specific to the dog's individual needs. So I'm gonna look at the focus for that dog and their fitness and the focus for the dog in their sports and then I can tailor those different aspects of fitness to meet those needs. So an example of that is my red cocker spaniel grid is unfortunately in our New Zealand system, a dog who's measured into a height class and he's a very small dog in that high class.

So he used to jump with all the Border Collies, it's quite a big group of dogs and he's a very tiny boy and he used to jump a jump that he can walk under without ducking. Okay. It's, yeah, it's ridiculous. It's quite a big ask for him. So even though he's got a relatively balanced fitness program and he has got a balanced fitness in his body, a focus for him is always gonna be working really hard on hind end strength so that he has enough power to jump those really high jumps and he can do it with ease and with comfort. And then I'm also gonna work in stability in the shoulders and flexibility through the shoulders because he's jumping really high, he's landing from a height on his shoulders and if I don't address the flexibility and I don't address the stability of his shoulder joints, he has the potential to get injured. So I can pick specific exercises that still meet those general fitness criteria of doing some balance and stability and some strength and some cardiovascular fitness, but I can also make sure that the individual exercises that I pick meet those additional needs.

Melissa Breau: Okay. So thinking about all of that, obviously you offer some of this so, and you have a couple things I think on the calendar coming up. Do you wanna talk a little bit about those? I think there's a webinar and a class. What are you covering in each, what do folks need to know?

Kelly Daniel: Yep. Cool. So the first thing coming on the schedule in the near future is I have a webinar coming up on March the 14th. It's called Architecture of Fitness Structure and Form. And I'm kind of going into like part of the geeky stuff in a small way, but as I always do, I go into it in quite some detail. So this is really to help you develop your eye for form, evaluate your dog's structure and it gives you some exercises and some hints on there and then how to improve the form. So what we're gonna cover is sort of those, all of the things that can impact form. We're gonna have a look at structure and how to make a structural assessment of your dog.

And I'm gonna demo that with a couple of example dogs. We're gonna talk about all of the different aspects to what form is and what can impact form with your dog. And then we're gonna look at some real life examples and give you a variety of hands-on ways that you can in one exercise improve the form of your dog. So that's the webinar that's coming up that kind of gives like a small snapshot of what the class that I've got coming up in the April term's gonna get into.

So the April term class is about getting geeky all about fitness. We're gonna go into form and we're gonna go into all of the other things in a large amount of detail. So this would be perfect for anyone that has done a little bit of fitness already and wants to go deeper. They wanna learn how to do things that individually work for their dog.

They wanna maybe make assessments of their dogs and pick things that are super appropriate and they really just wanna develop their eye for form and have some hands-on ways of how they can improve it. It would also definitely suit, like I know there's a lot of us that unfortunately have dogs that have issues and are doing rehab or have done rehab. So if you want a little bit of understanding of the sort of veterinary rehab side, it would help you with some of the terminology and some of the language and understanding why you've been given the things that you might have been given in a rehab plan. So if you're into improving your understanding of that, it would definitely help as well. So in the class we're going into form and a huge amount of detail. We're gonna go super geeky into anatomy.

We're gonna talk about reinforcement strategies and training. So like how to get 'em be still in fitness, which is hard. We like to have dogs that move. We are sports people. Movement's more exciting, being still is really hard. We're gonna go into a huge amount of detail of those different aspects of fitness, all the different fitness exercises you can do and kind of how to put them together to make your workout that suits a specific dog.

We're gonna look at over a year how you can structure your workouts and build up towards certain events and then we're gonna like basically look at developing people's skills at critically evaluating a specific dog and making a workout plan that works for them. That was a really brief outline. There's a lot of stuff in there. I was looking at the syllabus and we were right when I was working on your questions and I was like, there's, there's kind of a lot in here. So there is, and like all my stuff I know I'm super aware of putting a lot in, but it means that you can pick and choose what's relevant for you, which is how I know I like to work. I really wanna provide material that suits people and their needs and by breaking it up into these areas it means like for now the anatomy might be too much and that's okay 'cause you can come back and review that later in your class that will stay in your library.

Melissa Breau: Right, right. So any final thoughts or maybe key points you just wanna leave listeners with?

Kelly Daniel: I guess for me it's just like Canine Fitness is super fun. It will help your dog in their life, which is really important for me. I want dogs that are happy and functional and sound in their everyday life, but it's also gonna help dogs with the other things that you do.

So have a go. Get started. Anything that you do is better than nothing and hopefully hooked into it like I am. Fingers crossed.

Melissa Breau: Well, thank you so much for coming on the podcast, Kelly!

Kelly Daniel: Thank you for having me. I've really enjoyed this little chat.

Melissa Breau: Me too. And thank you to all of our listeners for tuning in. We'll be back next week with Irith Bloom to chat about dealing with feelings for those big feeling dogs.

If you haven't already, subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or the podcast app of your choice to our next episode automatically downloaded to your phone as soon as it becomes available. Today's show is brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Special thanks to Denise Fenzi for supporting this podcast music provided royalty free by ben sound.com. The track featured here is called Buddy. Audio Editing provided by Chris Lang.

Thanks again for tuning in and happy training.


Today's show is brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Special thanks to Denise Fenzi for supporting this podcast. Music provided royalty-free by BenSound.com; the track featured here is called "Buddy." Audio editing provided by Chris Lang.

Thanks again for tuning in -- and happy training!

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