The humans have their water bottles. The canines have their water bowls.

The people wear their stretchy pants. The dogs show off their well-groomed coats.

When they get it right, the dogs are rewarded with a treat — while the humans burn off calories.

Cross-training takes on a new meaning in “Exercise With Your Dog!,” a human/canine workout class that’s new to the Madison area but part of a growing trend.

“It’s kind of the incoming thing,” said Angela Smith, instructor for “Exercise With Your Dog!,” a class held weekly in Middleton.

Though the concept is moving into the Midwest, she said, “It’s kind of a West Coast thing.”

Smith designed the course (mostly the people exercises) along with Giene Keyes, owner of Dog Face Training (who designed most of the dog exercises).

“’Exercise With Your Dog!’ is different from a normal obedience class, “because there’s so much movement,” Keyes explained.

“Dogs have to have a base knowledge in obedience because of the exercises you do, but it kind of takes it to another level,” said Keyes, whose company specializes in dog training, obedience and consulting.

“It’s really fun for the dogs, because they want to be active, and when we start running around with them it makes it more fun.”

During a recent class, Liz and Lance Williston of Belleville went through the cardio paces with their 4 1/2-year-old Bernese mountain dog, Matilda. In one exercise, the humans jumped up from a squat, prompting Matilda to leap in the air to catch a training treat. In other routines, pets and owners played keep-away, jogged, zig-zagged through cones, stretched and turned.

Everyone got a workout, Liz Williston said.

“Even though it’s only a brief amount of time, you do build up a bit of a sweat,” she said.

Taking the weekly, 45-minute class proved a break from the winter doldrums — and was a novel way to practice dog obedience, said Lance Williston.

Matilda “is pretty rambunctious,” he said, “so it’s better to do something besides ‘sit’ and ‘stay.’”

Toward the end of the class, the humans performed yoga planks and other core-strengthening exercises as their dogs waited patiently in a “down” position.

“One of the owners said it’s nice for me to be able to teach them that this is my time — so the dog can sit calmly and learn to wait for me to do what I need to do,” Smith said.

But mostly, the class is about having fun and spending time together, said Keyes.

“One of the reasons we started this class was because we saw so many people were heading to the gym after work, and their dogs were sitting at home,” she said.

“The people would get home from the gym and be tired, but their dogs would be ready to get up and play. So we thought what a great way to work out with your dog. It’s a fun bonding process with your dog — and what a better motivator to get you off the couch than your dog.”


Gayle Worland is an arts and features reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.