Keeping Dogs Fit and Strong For Agility

While agility is a lot of fun for our dogs, it is no secret that the sport is physically demanding for our canine friends (and us!). This is even more true for dogs that are overweight or out of shape. Before even starting agility training it is essential to have your dog at a lean wight and increase your dogs fitness and strength.

Fitness training is also important to the success of already established teams as it can enhance performance on the course.

There are many different ways to begin a fitness program for your dog (and as always, make sure you talk to your veterinarian first to make sure they are appropriate for your dog). Swimming, free-running, trick training, canine conditioning with fitpaws style equipment, balance work, weight pulling, and hiking are all great ways to increase your dog’s fitness. All of these will build muscle and endurance.

I’ve tried all of these with my dogs but often find I end up focusing more on their fitness than my own! (Although hiking and free-running can be great for me too). Recently, I discovered Canicross – which was developed to keep sled dogs fit in the summer months. Dogs are fitted with a non-restrictive harness and a bungee leash connects the dog to a waistbelt on their two legged companion. As they run, the dog leans into the harness and help pull the runner forward.

The option to work out with my dog immediately appealed to me and it seemed more fun for both of us than just running alongside each other. As I read more about the sport I found out that the resistance in the line not only improves fitness but can also improve jumping, body awareness, and more!

To get started, I started by joining a couch to 5k canicross program through non-stop dogwear. We also made sure we both had appropriate gear that fit. For me, this meant a Canix running belt. For my dog, Nate (a 5 year old 45lb Border Collie), this meant a Freemotion Harness in Size 5. Between us, a 2m bungee leash. This week, I did exercises on my own (both running and strength training). Today was the day for our first Canicross – a simple 500m run (about 1/3 of a mile). We got geared up and headed to the trail.

Warming up is critical, this also gave me a chance for Nate to get better use to the gear. He is a natural puller and has never been taught not to pull on a leash – so getting him to pull in the harness was easy for us. We walked with him pulling for about 5 minutes, then we started our 1/3 of a mile run. We held a 11.5 minute mile pace and a few minutes later had finished! To cool down, I let Nate run freely and I did a cool down walk. Noddy, my papillon, also joined us running freely nearby. She was equipped with a Non-stop Dogwear Line Harness (size 2) which allowed her to extend freely and not be restricted as she moved.

I was glad to have done all the work this week on starting to run as it meant the 1/3 of a mile with Nate went super easy for me. Nate is already an incredibly fit dog, so 1/3 of a mile was very easy for him too. Much like training agility, starting with something that was physically easy for both of us increases confidence and means we’ll be able to do even better and go further next time!

NEAT is partnering with Non-stop Dogwear!

This year NEAT has chosen to partner with Non-stop Dogwear, a Scandinavian company that pride’s itself in creating ergonomic, innovative, and functional gear for active dogs and their humans.

Our members are excited about this partnership as we love that Non-stop Dogwear’s gear is designed for unrestricted movement allowing our dogs to remain active in all conditions which is important as we keep our dogs fit for the physically intense demands of agility. We love how their gear fits dogs of all shapes and sizes – and love that there is great gear for humans too!

We are so appreciative of our partnership with Non-stop Dogwear and look forward to our 2023 USDAA Trial where participants will have a chance to win some gear for humans and canines thanks to Non-stop Dogwear!

Continue reading below to hear about some of the jackets Non-stop Dogwear makes and see some photos!

Non-stop Dogwear makes gear from harnesses to collars to jackets to boots to leashes to running waist belts and more! for dogs of all sizes. We’ve been testing out some of the gear and really love it!

One of our favorite jackets is the Glacier Jacket 2.0. It features PrimaLoft insulation (which many of us have in our human coats!) perfect for cold days. The shell is also windproof and water repellant. The jacket comes in 4 different colors though the blaze orange and black is a favorite of ours since it is great for being out during hunting season. It also comes in a wide size range fitting even the smallest of dogs well!

Another feature we love on the Glacier Jacket (and Fjord Raincoat) is that there is a leash pass through for both a collar and harness! Making it easy to still use a harness or collar when the coat is on the dog. We were especially impressed with the baffle around the pass through that prevents drafts from entering these areas (which can happen on coats from other brands – but not Non-Stop Dogwear!)

We were also able to test the popular Fjord Jacket which is a waterproof, windproof, breathable shell. It was easy to see why it is a best seller! We’ve seen a lot of other dog gear out there and no other rain jacket compares! Typical rain jackets for dogs are a single waterproof layer which traps humidity inside and leaves dogs hot. This jacket is incredible! It works well in rain and snow (photos in the snow though!). It is very waterproof and great for dogs who run a bit warmer.

Another wonderful coat is the Blest Jacket. This is a little different than the other coats and does not have a pass through or buckle straps. It is an ultralight waterproof and wind resistant jacket with PrimaLoft insulation designed for active dogs on cold days whether moving or stopped. It, like the other coats, is designed for a full freedom of movement for dogs. What we loved that this was easy to put on with gloves in the snow. Nate (seen below) often runs very hot and does not need a coat unless he is stopped or recovering from a mid-winter swim (Yes he swims even in the snow if he can get to the water!). The ability pack the Blest up and easily put it on when needed was wonderful!

To see even more photos check out this slide show! Want to try the gear on your own dog? Join NEAT for our May 2023 USDAA Trial where you can try gear on, get a sense of the different items in person, and possibly even win some gear as a prize!

Summer Highlights of NEAT members

It’s been a busy summer for NEAT members after the trial in May.

Here are a few highlights from our members:

Dexter and Liz earned their SPR (starters performance relay) title at the BARK trial in July – this is Dexter’s first USDAA title – congrats Dexter!


Dexter and his USDAA ribbons from BARK

Christina and Pippa got their first Performance 2 Gamblers Q at the BARK trial and earned their APD (Advanced Performance Dog – 3 Q’s in P2 standard and at least 1 in each of P2 Gamblers, Snooker, Jumpers and Pairs). Congrats Pippa! Pippa also teamed up with Dahli to run “strategic pairs” which was some of the most fun anyone’s ever seen at an agility trial.


Strategic Pairs is a wild and fun game

One week later, Dahli finished her 3rd leg of P2 Standard and joined Pippa in the APD club by earning her title at the Data Driven Agility trial in Vermont! Dahli also enjoyed her first trip to the New England Regionals.


Master’s (or P3) Furrever now says Dahli showing off her APD ribbon at Data Driven Agility.

Penny and Miranda have had a busy summer – Penny moved up from Enthusiast to Regular in CPE and got her first few Level 3 Q’s. She also had fun at USDAA Regionals and got her first USDAA P1 Q in Jumpers, and then got 2 more in Jumpers and Snooker at BARK.


Penny has been racking up the ribbons at CPE and USDAA this summer.

NORM! and Amanda had a great time in Turnbridge, VT at a trial. Here they are taking a break from the agility ring to strut their stuff!


Norm and Amanda always have a blast together!

Nancy’s Skipper earned his Intro Versatility Award and Novice Versatility Awards this spring. He earned his 1st Elite title, Elite Tunnelers on July 29th! Here’s Skipper showing off his awards:

Annie states that “I’m sure we did lots of great stuff and got NADAC titles and stuff, but I forget what and don’t really care enough to look it up. My brag is Chico is still running happily and Bonney is getting faster.” Which is a good reminder to all that it’s not the titles but the moments you share with your dog that matters the most.

And along those line’s … Lauren, Ben, and Dahli excitedly welcomed Nate Dogg to their family in July – he has since learned some tunnels, wobble boards, a table, and a tire… but his biggest accomplishment? Pooping while on a leash in a strange new place at the New England USDAA Regionals. Way to go Nate!


Nate at his new home with a new toy!

NEAT’s 30th Anniversary Trial

NEAT Recently held their 30th anniversary trial.

You can read all about it on the USDAA website. Or copied below for convenience!


NEAT’s 30th Anniversary Trial

New England club NEAT celebrates 30 years.

We’ve been NEAT for ThirtyYears!

Thirty years is a long time and that’s how long New England AgilityTeam has been an agility club with USDAA. All those years ago, Ken Tatsch saw something in England and brought it back to the USA. Julie Daniels and Jean MacKenzie each contacted Ken about getting involved, and he put those two together to expand agility into New England.The result of that collaboration was NEAT, founded in 1988.

May 19-20, 2018, in Greenland NH, marked NEAT’s 30th Anniversary Trial! Thanks to all who helped to make this celebration a festive event. Many members, old and new, participated and had a great time running their dogs, visiting the Memory Tent, and feasting at NEAT’s Potluck/BBQ on Saturday night.

Thanks to Andy Hartman for making the trip to join NEAT on Saturday to help celebrate this fabulous milestone and presenting the club with a beautiful plaque. The History/Memory Tent set up by Julie was very popular. It is amazing how far the world of agility has progressed.

Thanks also to our wonderful judges, Maureen Sullivan and Trisha Stall, for challenging but fun courses.

Many new titles were earned – Congratulations to all!

  • Trudy and Sandi Bixler – PRM
  • Fia and Chris Holm – SM
  • Dazzle and Kristen Bartoli – SPG
  • Wik and Kathy Clement – PRCh – Bronze
  • Kelso and Delaney Ratner – PDCH
  • Oswin and Seth Dunn – JM
  • Striker and Seth Dunn – PTM – Diamond
  • Dahli and Lauren Kras – SPR and APK

Thanks to all who helped make this trial and celebration a great success! (All photos courtesy of Ben Griffith unless otherwise noted.

A NEAT time at NADAC

This weekend club members Nancy, Miranda, Annie, and Lauren all went to the NADAC trial hosted by Addicted to Agility in Rhode Island.

At their first NADAC trial, Miranda and Penny had a lot of success! It took Penny a few tries to get used to the black colored contacts but then Penny became quiet proficient with her favorite obstacle (the dog walk). Penny racked up 4 Q’s and 2 first, 3 second, 3 third, and 2 fourth places …  way to go Penny!

Also new to NADAC was Annie and her dogs Bonney and Chico. Bonney had a wonderful weekend with 5 Q’s including two towards her Novice Regular title! She was happy to see old doggy friends but also made a new friend in a handsome dog named Beau.  Chico, (who is 13!), has competed in many other venues making it all the way to Master’s but this was his first time in NADAC. He enjoyed starting over at the novice level and Q’ed all 10 runs he entered in! But most importantly he may have been the happiest dog on the course and many enjoyed watching his sheer joy as he sped around the ring over each obstacle in his way!

Nancy and Skipper had a great time but were only able to make the trial on Saturday morning but still had some great runs including a perfect, smooth, connected Regular run with a Q and a 1st place. And Nancy was happy that every set of weave poles was perfect all day! You can watch a video of Skipper’s regular run  – look at him go!!!


Lauren and Dahli competed in 16 runs and earned 9 Q’s (including their first open Q in jumpers!). Dahli also earned 4 new titles (Novice Barrelers, Novice Tunnelers, Novice Hoopers, and Novice Regular). Dahli enjoyed her time running in the ring but most enjoyed the fish skins and mozzarella cheese she earned as a reward.