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Dog as workout partner

MIND & BODY

At the Zoom Room, humans and canines are coached through joint workouts.

March 02, 2013|Mary MacVean
  • Patrons at the Zoom Room in Hollywood can do a cross-training workouts with their dogs. Jessie Simon does a leaping exercise with her Jack Russell terrier, Paxton.
Patrons at the Zoom Room in Hollywood can do a cross-training workouts with… (Michael Robinson Chavez…)

Many people get home from work in need of a trip to the gym or an exercise class. But the list of excuses is myriad, starting with that most precious commodity, time. Factor in a dog -- in my case, a rambunctious terrier mix named Beanie -- and it's likely that all thoughts of a workout vanish.

That's why, on a recent evening, Beanie and I hit the Zoom Room, a studio on La Brea Avenue in Hollywood that offers workout classes (four for $120, 10 for $265) for dogs and their people. Together.

There were seven dogs in our cross-training class. Jaime Van Wye, who started the business and has trained police and bomb squad dogs as well as dogs that work with autistic children, was our teacher.

The dogs are expected to have basic manners: They need to refrain from barking through the class and must be able to sit or lie down on command. Van Wye, whose leggings were covered in dog hairs, taught Beanie in a few minutes another basic task: to touch a palm with her nose when instructed to do so. The reward for good behavior? Dog treats.

Our class included a loping retriever puppy that had a mind of its own and several dogs that did most of what was asked of them. Dogs were leashed during class to keep them away from one another.

"Clearly, Buck is our model student," Van Wye said jokingly when Buck wouldn't stop barking. He ended up taking a "time out" away from the class.

The owners, meanwhile, did sit-ups, wall push-ups, steps, lunges and a couple of other exercises at stations around the room. (Equipment includes balls, balance beams, rings and other devices for two- and four-legged exercisers.) A human could get in 20 or so sit-ups at a time, but rarely without a break to get the dog to do its part: sitting still at the human's feet.

By the third time through the stations, the dogs were much better at sitting still for the sit-ups or running through a tunnel. Van Wye said it can take a few weeks of classes that focus on the dog's efforts before a person can fully focus on his or her own workout.

Van Wye said she's frequently reinventing workshops to suit the dogs, including an urban herding class (balls stand in for sheep) and a "shy dog" class that's mostly for skittery rescues. For older dogs or those with hip problems, there's "Pup-lates."

"I do CrossFit at home, but he" -- Paxton the Jack Russell -- "also needs to get fit," said Jessie Simon, one of my classmates.

"It's a bonding experience with the dog," said David Essex, holding Windsor, a border collie-cattle dog mix. "It is more of a workout for us, more of a patience thing for them."

Beanie loved class. If she didn't always get the tasks just right, she was game for anything that led to a treat. But she was far from bone tired by the end -- our goal when she goes to the park.

Zoom Room (www.zoomroomonline.com) has a Culver City location too, and there are franchises around the country.

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mary.macvean@latimes.com

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