SUISUN CITY — Linda Rhino of Napa and her dog Storm can really cut a rug.
Storm effortlessly weaves in and around Rhino, eyes ever alert for that special treat that he will get once they finish the routine set to music. It was created for her and a half-dozen other dog owners by Vacaville choreographer Judy Gamet of Dogs Can Dance.
“I can tell he is really having a good time out there. He loves it,” Rhino said during a break. “It gives him a good opportunity to do physical exercise and to work his brain. It is also good for bonding with your dog.”
Rhino and Storm spent their Tuesday night with Gamet and other dog owners at the Napa Valley Dog Training Club. They were in Gamet’s dance drill team class, which will culminate in a video of the dogs and their dance routine for a competition.
It is all part of Gamet’s work combining canine and human fitness dance exercises and music, which is offered through the Suisun City Recreation Department and which Gamet plans to offer online.
The idea for using dance and music to get dogs fit was born when Bella entered Gamet’s life.
Bella was an overweight 6-year-old Rottweiler who had severe hip dysplasia and could not find a good home until she met Gamet.
“When that happened, I just fell in love with her,” Gamet said.
Gamet was a dance teacher since she was 13. She has been running Motion Dynamics, a dance and aerobics business, since 1989 with the goal of helping people increase their fitness and lose weight through exercise and dance.
If it could work for humans, it could certainly work for dogs, Gamet thought, “so I applied that science to canines.”
For the next three months, Gamet changed Bella’s diet and, combined with light daily exercise, that translated to a loss of 20 pounds. Dancing with Bella at least two days a week got the canine walking more and looking half her age, according to Gamet.
“The combination of dogs and dance opened up a whole new, exciting adventure for both Bella and myself,” Gamet said. “She soon had an attitude that ‘I am becoming strong again’ and Bella lived with me until she was 14.”
Within a year of starting to work with Bella, Gamet realized that other dogs could use physical therapy set to music. She proceeded to set up Dogs Really Can Dance, which included the Paws 4 Fitness program she teaches at the Joseph A. Nelson Community Center in Suisun City, as well as locations throughout the Sacramento region and the Bay Area.
Gamet said that adding music to a training and exercise regimen gets humans to use what she calls the nonjudgmental side of their brain. That puts dogs more at ease with their human.
“They love working with their dogs through music,” Gamet said.
It is important to find the right music to work with your dog, Gamet said.
“You can tell when you have the right music, because you can see it in their body language,” Gamet said, “and when they have the music that they like, they pay much closer attention to you.”
Gamet has put the lessons on the Internet through her website www.DogsCanDance.com, which she said has collected customers from as far away as Australia, Israel and Canada.
She has also been offering the online classes for both canines and humans through the Suisun City Recreation Department since the beginning of the year. The latest Dogs Really Can Dance and Tap in Motion 101 classes start Sept. 10. Visit https://activenet003.active.com/suisunrec/.
“This allows me to reach all those people who could not otherwise take the classes,” Gamet said.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.