Q&A with Dog Trainer Heather Mehi on the LaGuard Fitness Vest
OutdoorHub Reporters 06.11.12
For competition dogs, police dogs and hunting dogs a little something extra is needed to get them in the top physical condition their tasks demand. That little something extra is the LaGuard Fitness Vest. Developed after years of research by LaGuard (based in Detroit, Michigan), the Fitness Vest is a patented, weighted vest worn by dogs to increase their muscle mass and stamina during physical activity.
Heather Mehi is a dog trainer who has worked at various shelters and humane societies for more than 20 years. She currently works with dogs at the Dearborn Animal Shelter in a management position where she is responsible for all the animals welfare and health, but also making sure they get the best home possible. In her time, Mehi has taught dogs new skills, trained her own dogs to compete in dock diving and weight pulling and general training. Mehi has been using the LaGuard Fitness Vest for six years.
Outdoor Hub wanted to find out how the vest works and what the benefits were from Mehi’s experience. Find out the results in the interview below.
Outdoor Hub: What is your experience in working with dogs?
Heather Mehi: I have been working in shelter environments for at least 20 years. I have been the shelter manager at the Dearborn Animal Shelter for the last 16 years. I run a dog club outside of the shelter that teaches weight pulling, swimming, dock diving, agility, and lure coursing. We also kayak and canoe, hike and camp. My goal is to provide a place to keep dogs socialized, and more balance with physical and mental stimulation.
OH: Tell us about the dogs that use LaGuard Fitness Vest. Are they police dogs, hunting dogs, perhaps overweight or even show dogs?
HM: They are canine athletes and people pets. Some compete in competitions, and others do it just for exercise. Some are dogs that are overweight when they join the club, some do it to build endurance, and some do it for the mental work of the dog having a job.
HM: We use the vest while out doing a variety of sports with out dogs like hiking, running, biking and we will be using it lure coursing. It’s a great sport – the vest helps to build endurance.
OH: Have you found the LaGuard Fitness Vest to be effective?
HM: Yes, it actually helps the dogs focus more, and it helps you get a full workout in half the time. It has also helped with some of the dogs that have come to club that has some aggression issue or anxiety around other dogs. We put it on them and it provides a job and gives them something else to focus on besides all that is surrounding them. It gives them a sense of security also, so it works in a lot of awesome ways. I use it for my personal dogs when they are on the treadmill and we use it at the animal shelter I work at on our dogs when the volunteers come and walk the dogs so they get more out of the short times they get exercised.
OH: How do the dogs react and respond to LaGuard Fitness Vest? And be honest.
HM: I have only once had a dog who laid down and thought she could not walk. The rest of the dogs have never had any issues.
OH: Can you tell us a little bit about what goes on mentally while a dog is wearing the LaGuard Fitness Vest?
HM: Mentally, it gives the dog a sense of having a job. All dogs love having a job. Regardless of how people say their dog is lazy and just lays around…that is not a happy dog. Give it a job. It also helps build endurance as you slowly add weights this is good for any dog who needs to to be fit for competition or just a dog who has a lot of energy to expel.
OH: Who would you recommend LaGuard Fitness Vest to?
HM: All pet owners who want a well balanced and happy dog.