Aromatherapy, massage, acupressure and fitness swimming sound like the services offered at an exclusive spa. All that's missing at Rocky's Retreat in Orlando, Fla., is human clientele.
At their new dog health and fitness center, Sherri Cappabianca and co-owner Toby Gass offer dogs an array of gentle, noninvasive services that they consider to be far from frivolous indulgences. "It's absolutely integral to their health," says Cappabianca, who has more than 1,000 hours of training in canine aqua therapy, small-animal massage, small-animal acupressure, canine behavior and related fields.
Increasingly, dog owners understand that their pets need regular exercise and preventative efforts to maintain good health. They're finding that the sorts of therapies we humans enjoy, such as aromatherapy and massage, also serve their dogs well.
Does Your Dog Need a Fitness Center?
Clients come to Rocky's Retreat for myriad reasons, says Cappabianca. For example, swimming may help rehabilitate your dog after an injury. Obese dogs, dogs that need gentle exercise, high-energy dogs in need of a release, dogs that experience stress (such as service dogs) and dogs with behavioral issues can benefit as well, says Cappabianca. Aromatherapy can be soothing for anxious dogs, while massage can work well for senior dogs, among others.
It can also simply be practical for you as a dog owner to use a dog fitness center, says Dr. Craig Woods, a Prescott, Ariz., veterinarian who did his graduate work on muscle biochemistry during exercise. "Dog fitness centers can be an excellent way for dog owners to provide their pet's exercise requirements," says Woods.
What to Expect From a Dog Fitness Center
Rocky's Retreat is designed to be a soothing sanctuary, with a welcoming lobby, a spacious room for doggie day care, a pair of treatment rooms, an indoor pool and a large backyard. When it comes to swimming, "one of us is in the pool at all times, with our hands on the dog at all times," says Cappabianca. "If a dog is paralyzed or partially paralyzed, we exercise those limbs. With high-energy dogs, we control their speed with resistance. We start at the far end of the pool and have them swim toward their owner."
Clients might schedule a massage every couple of weeks or a swim once a week. At Rocky's Retreat, prices range from $90 for an hour swim, to $85 for aromatherapy, to $60 for a massage/acupressure treatment. The center also offers specials, memberships and therapy packages.
Because dog fitness centers generally aren't regulated, it's up to you to do your research and make sure the center you use follows certain standards. Consider these factors before you use a facility:Training and credentials Technicians should have experience and training in the services they are offering. They'll often list their training and affiliations on the fitness center website, as Cappabianca does.
As with any aspect of your dog's health, you should consult with your veterinarian before your dog engages in a new fitness routine.
Kim Boatman is a journalist based in Northern
California. She is also the managing editor of ExceptionalCanine.com.
Boatman's work has appeared in The Miami Herald,
the Detroit Free Press and the San Jose Mercury News. She
is a lifelong lover of animals, and a frequent contributor to The Dog
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