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A love for animals and a background in fitness are what prompted Krista Wickens and Don Standing to take a stand against the growing obesity rate in one of the nation’s most beloved pets: the family dog.
Wickens and Standing, co-founders of Ogden-based PetZen Products and DogTread, saw an opportunity to provide exercise products for the canine world and launched their first canine exercise product, a dog treadmill, in 2007. The treadmill, which can be used for companion dogs, performance dogs and dogs that need rehabilitation therapy after surgery, saw immediate success.
“At that time in our research, there was nothing out there for canine fitness,” Wickens said. “So we launched a new category in the pet industry, which was fitness.”
Today the company focuses specifically on canine fitness products, which are all under the DogTread brand.
“Just like in the human world where we have different products to work different parts of our body, we have combined that philosophy in our line for dogs,” Wickens said. “We’ve worked with experts in canine anatomy, like veterinarians and canine rehabilitation practitioners, to test products.”
Not only does the company manufacture dog treadmills so dogs can get sufficient cardio exercise, but it also has a canine vest dogs can wear to increase strength, a “fit bone” dogs can stand on to improve balance, and a flexible stretching mat that can help dogs increase their flexibility.
“Right now we’re the only company that offers all these components for canine fitness,” Wickens said. “That’s the direction we’re headed, because pets and performance dogs need to have a strong level of fitness. We don’t do the same things with our dogs that we used to years ago. They don’t have the same room to roam and most dog parks have leash laws. All of these things contribute to bad behavior and fat pets.”
Wickens said the company’s treadmill has received several accolades for its design and impact on canines, including the award for Top Pet Fitness and Weight Loss Products in 2009 from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, and third place in the New Product Showcase in 2008 at the annual Global Pet Expo in California.
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 52.5 percent of U.S. dogs have been determined to be overweight or obese by their veterinarian. That’s approximately 36.7 million.
“That’s a huge statistic,” Wickens said. “Plus, over 50 percent of dogs are left home alone every day for six to 10 hours, so they aren’t getting any exercise. What is alarming more than anything is the obesity trend in animals continues to go up. We have the opportunity to make our own fitness and health decisions, but our dogs don’t. We make them for our dogs.”
Wickens said dogs don’t have a preconceived notion about exercise like humans have—meaning they typically welcome it.
“From a basic primal level, dogs were made to move hundreds of miles a day,” she said. “It’s part of what they do. When they don’t get that stimulation, that’s when you start to have issues. If you have fun doing it with your dog, they’ll like it too.”
Wickens said there are five basic reasons why canine health is important to pet owners. Exercise will help dogs to live longer, be healthy and active, live pain free and happy, live without medication, and save the pet owner money.
“One of the challenges that we have as a business is changing perceptions of how people see their animals,” Wickens said. “A lot of people think a few extra pounds on their dog is cute, but a few pounds can be life threatening. People say they walk their dog, but they’re typically not doing it to a point where it’s changing anything. And they think because they have a big backyard, especially in Utah, that the dog is getting plenty of exercise, but it’s not focused exercise.”
In the future, Wickens isn’t sure if the company will start making exercise products for other animals, but she said she has received several requests for feline exercise equipment.
“At this time we’re focused more on the canine side, but we won’t say that’s not a possibility,” she said.
For more information on PetZen Products and DogTread, visit www.dogtread.com.