Dexter Boot Camp or My Number 1 Tip for Losing Belly Fat

No, not boot camp for him; me!  It has been a month since this guy bounded into our lives.  Yesterday, I was able to introduce him to my sister who was visiting from Bedford.  She drove out from our parent's home where she stays while in town. It was a glorious day, which in Virginia means that it did not feel like August weather.  Rather, it felt like an early fall day:  sunshine, long shadows and no humidity.

Since Dexter's arrival, my physical activity has increased exponentially over my baseline.  Arms are stronger.  Legs are stronger (and bruised) and belly fat melting away.  So my Number 1 Tip for Losing Belly Fat is to get a young dog and play!  Years ago I used to trail run with my English Setters Lucy (my avatar) and Greta.  I did it rain or shine, to include very cold weather.  (Well, our VA winters are never but so bad!).  It was a wonderful way to be with nature, bond with my dogs, and do what I considered my 'running meditation'.  I was the fittest I have ever been in my life.

Running meditation was defined by focusing on my breath and my running cadence. Syncopating my breathing with my running created a rhythm that really had me tuned into each step and each breath.   It was a great mindfulness exercise--and it improved my running performance.  As I was never quite able to fit a meditation practice in with work and family demands, I used my running as 'meditation' time--a way to kill two birds with one stone.  Once I integrated my breathing mediation into my running, my relative performance increased.  (I say relative performance, as I was just running against myself--and I was never a performance runner).  It was a great way to stay mentally and physically balanced to deal with the stressful demands of career and family.

With Dexter, Mark and I are excited about the possibilities of integrating Dexter into a more active lifestyle.  Yesterday, we pulled our mountain bikes out.  (After Mark started the KTM (dirtbike) up and Dexter went wild).  We have some work to do on that.  The mountain bikes in motion offered an unwitting opportunity for him attack and bite the front tires.  I'm not surprised, as he did this on the small wheels of the trash can as I was rolling it back from the road.  Stopping the bike and turning the tire from side to side  was no lesson either nor was his occasional snout rolled over (no danger to him as there is very little weight on the front of the tire).  Fortunately, he was not interested in trying to bite our feet or our legs.

I suspect that this behavior is resurrected from his unknown past. One of the pit falls of having a pit bull or any bully breed is that 'lessons' that would be soon learned by another dog, are merely a rallying cry for these guys.  We figured (correctly is proved) we could simply out maneuver him. Mark is very skilled on the bike, and I'm moderately skilled.  We were NOT clipped into the pedals.    We used bait and switch to allow him to run and work off energy.  After a few minutes, he was running beside the bike in the middle without trying to stop the bike by facing head on and biting the tire.  (I suspect we will see that in our next session).

We concurred that he was running WITH the bike and us v. CHASING the bike--NOT a behavior that we want him to learn or reinforce.  Once both we and he settled into to comfortable maneuvering that involved no front wheel attacks we were able to give this guy about 10 minutes of vigorous exercise.  We were peddling in the safety of our front yard which is pretty large.  I got a good work out too!

Dexter was given an opportunity to get water and rest up. He was panting very hard at the end of our short session--and it was JUST the type or workout that he needed to burn off energy.   For us it is all about LEVERAGING our endurance against his.  The bike was just the type of leverage to allow for him to get some vigorous exercise without our being exhausted. 

Most importantly, it offered him a safe place to get appropriate exercise, at appropriate intensity and appropriate duration for his age.  He is still less than a year old, and he is not old enough for anything more than this brief exercise.  He was loping and then jogging, not running full out.  We were simply slowly peddling in circles.  My English Setters in their prime could easily sustain a run for quite a while.  However, NO DOG, regardless of physical conditioning, should be exercised heavily in high heat and humidity. They don't cool as efficiently as we do. I see this so often people over exerting dogs in high heat OR walking their pooches on pavement or blacktop heated up.  Here's a a great article on just how hot surfaces can get.  See also, The Dog Outdoors, Biking Tips.

We have much work to do to get him desensitized to the motorcycle.  We are confident that he is not afraid.  His tail is wagging hard, and he's very excited by it and vocalizes hard.  We want to help this guy keep his energy levels controlled, as escalation is not good for him or his behavior.  All of his unacceptable behavior is from escalated energy.  When he is calm and relaxed, he is a perfect companion.  Our ratio is 9:1 good behavior v. undesirable behavior.  The 1 is still too high, because the level of undesirable behavior during that slice of time is quite high. 


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