It is Friday night before the Super Bowl of dog shows, and George the Plott Hound is putting in some road work in the Canine Gym, located in the basement of the Hotel Pennsylvania, just across the street from Madison Square Garden, site of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
Watching on TV you may think the Westminster champions live a pampered life, tossing back liver-flavored bonbons. But like any athlete, championship dogs require practice and a carefully planned exercise regimen
The Canine Gym features a range of DogTread treadmills specifically designed for dogs, from small breeds to dogs weighing up to 200 pounds.
Wouldn’t all this exercise wear out the dog?
“A lot of the dog show handlers use this as a warm up to focus the dog’s attention,’’ says Krista Wickens, co-owner of PetZen Products, which makes the treadmills.
George certainly seems happy to put in his workout, with owner Joi Hosker, of MacClenny, Fla., holding his lead as he ambles along at a good clip. Hosker is just happy to have George back. The dog was stolen and eventually recovered in Florida, where he had been pressed into service, spending eight months hunting bears. Now safely back with Hoskins, George is now the No. 3 ranked Plott in the country, and will be hunting ribbons and trophies at the big dog show.
Just like human versions, the dog treadmills can be set to just the right speed for the dogs, or a remote control can vary the speed to up to 7 mph depending on the workout needs, says Wickens. The workout stations are becoming a popular tool for trainers, to combat pet obesity but also to help with issues such as leash pulling or other dog behavior problems.
“Trainers give a dog a workout of maybe 10 minutes and it helps to warm a dog up, burn off some excess energy and get them focused for a training session,’’ Wickens says.
Don’t some dogs shy away from getting on a treadmill? “We have never had a dog that we couldn’t get to accept it, as long as the owner gives them positive feedback,’’ says Wickens. In fact George seems to really enjoy the session, with his newly recovered owner at his side.
At the end of the workout, George sags contentedly onto the stopped treadmill, turning it into an instant nap station. Clearly working out for a big dog show is a lot easier than facing down a snarling bear on a wooded trail.