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"Thank Dog" Boot Camp Gives Participants Unique Partners

The health effects of being overweight can be serious and include diabetes and heart disease, but motivating yourself to go to the gym or put on that workout tape can be tough. We’ve all been there - at the end of long day when exercise is the last thing on your mind. But some people think they've found a solution that involves a furry companion. ******

Heidi Braun runs a bootcamp to get people in shape. But people aren’t the only participants. There's Maggie, Braun’s peppy three-year-old bordercollie mix that she adopted a year ago from the Mahoning County Dog Shelter. Maggie’s the reason Braun started what’s called Thank Dog! Bootcamp. It’s a fitness class for people and their pooches.

I figured I couldn’t be the only person who had a crazy dog that I was leaving to go to the gym at night.

Today’s class is in the Beachwood Community Center but in the summer they meet outside. People come to the classes to bond with their dogs and get fit:

I have ladies in some of my classes that have lost 40 pounds. I have other ones that are here to work on strength-training.

The beauty of the concept, says Braun, is your dog becomes your workout partner, your motivator to lace up. "If your dog knows that every night at 6:30 you go for a walk, or every Thursday you go to bootcamp together, they know when that day is and they’re excited and they’re waiting for you and they’re going to pester you until you put on your shoes and take them to go. "I mean Maggie spins in circles because she knows it’s bootcamp day." Braun says one of her regulars, when she had to miss class, sent her boyfriend with her dog because she didn’t want her dog to miss out. "If you’re a single person and your dog is your best buddy that you share your life with, you don’t want to let them down." "We always ache after this class, says Linda Augustu from Pepper Pike Ohio. She and her dog Sadie started boot camp last summer. "I’m Lea Taft, I’m from Chagrin Falls. This is Bailey." Reporter: "And what kind of dog is Bailey?" Taft: "She’s a mutt! A very muddy mut!" Braun says she gets people, and dogs, at all fitness levels and ages. Ileen Kelner from Beachwood jokes that she’s twice as old as the others so it’s harder to keep up with her beagle, Amos. "No, we got to go this way," Amos says as she tries to reign in the dog. The dogs have to practice going from a jog to a sit, and their human counterparts don’t get off the hook. "Get on your mat on all fours. You’re doing rear leg lifts," Braun shouts out. The dogs are pretty good at staying put during this, but one of ‘em can’t resist a little sweaty-face-licking. "Oh Lea, she won’t stop kissing me! I know I’m happy to see you too. Ok, sit. Oh dear, we’ve lost control of the situation," Augustus says jokingly. OSU health coach Jenny Pitcher says a pet can be a good tool for fitness and weight loss, whether in a bootcamp like Braun’s or just taking a spin around the block at night. "Actually, yeah, we talk about dogs a lot." Her clients say their dogs keep ‘em honest, and research shows that having a buddy of some sort does help people stay on track.

So you can talk yourself out of going and doing the exercise but if you have committed to someone else to do it, it makes you more likely to get that done.

Back at doggie bootcamp, I had to ask one more question before I left: Reporter: "Do you have any tips for those of us with cats? Braun: "Umm...we’ll give you a loaner dog. Come to class!"