Don’t sit—get fit!

Published on July 17, 2013
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Story and photos by R. Scott Nolen

Gillian Palmerin and Lexie (above) and Jordan Swenson and Cooper (below) feel the burn during a session at K9 Fit Club in Westmont, Ill.

“Dogs are an extremely reliable workout partner,” says Tricia Montgomery, “because they’ll never cancel on you.”

Montgomery is president and founder of K9 Fit Club, a Chicago-based business with plans to open some 30 exercise clubs catering to dog owners nationwide. The former Chicago VMA executive director saw a need for a “mixed-species” fitness program in 2008 when pet obesity was gaining notice.

“We’re on a mission to create a national community of clubs dedicated to creating healthy lives for dogs and their people,” Montgomery said. “The most important decision a person can make in their day is exercising with their pet.”

Each 60-minute session was developed by a team of veterinarians, physicians, psychologists, personal trainers, and dog trainers. Sessions are run by a certified personal trainer who’s also credentialed by the club to work with canine clients. 

Dependent on location, classes are limited to eight to 10 participants and range in difficulty, incorporating a mix of cardiac, stretching, and strength training exercises. Options include Oh My Dog Bootcamp, Bow Wow Bootcamp, Pupilates, and Tai Chi Wa Wa as well as a class for children and puppies.

Sessions for special needs clients and breast cancer patients are also available. “We want to make it a safe place for people to work out who may not feel comfortable elsewhere,” Montgomery explained.

Erin Harvey and her dog Goldie, a Golden Retriever and Poodle mix, have been coming to K9 Fit Club since January. “I find it’s really cool to work out with the dogs and stay fit,” said Harvey, who has Down syndrome.

Success stories are many. Not only have Cindy Rodkin and her dog Khaki lost 80 pounds collectively, but also, according to trainers and Montgomery, Khaki is better behaved. Another K9 Fit Club member, Rebekkah Rakow, and her dog came to the club weighing 417 pounds and lost 82 pounds in less than three months.

In addition to the benefits of weight loss, K9 Fit Club strengthens the human-animal bond and promotes positive canine behavior. Montgomery said the club is working with the Human-Animal Bond Research Initiative at Purdue University by logging and providing data on participants’ experiences exercising with their pets. 

Find out more about K9 Fit Club by visiting or emailing infoatk9fitclub [dot] com.