BZ: Hi Katie! We know you’re a big dog lover yourself so we bet you were thrilled to be the Nutritionist working on BeeZee Dogs! We bet it was super fun but also a tad chaotic…?
Katie: It was really fun! It was nice getting to spend time with all the lovely dogs, and seeing them improve at their agility sessions each week. I remember the first session, they didn’t know what they were doing but they got so much better and were amazing by the end!
BZ: Well, practice makes perfect!
Katie: Exactly, the learning and development of new habits in the dogs actually set a perfect example to their owners of the benefits of practicing a new habit until it becomes second nature – which is exactly what we need to do when trying to change our behaviours.
BZ: So what about the humans – did they enjoy the agility sessions as much as their pooches did?
Katie: Yes – it really got everyone moving and although it wasn’t particularly high-intensity exercise, it did break the ice of getting more active. Once they’d done a few agility sessions with their dogs, many members started to increase their physical activity by going out on dog walks together and even joining the gym! This is where the social aspect really shows its benefits – once people had formed friendships they decided to exercise together!
BZ: The physical activity section of the session sounds great fun – but what about the nutrition section? Was it a bit chaotic trying to facilitate sensible discussion around healthy eating with dogs in the room?
Katie: The nutrition section covered the same topics as we discuss in all of our other BeeZee groups – things like portion sizes, energy balance, snacks and drinks and so on. This is the part that is tried and tested – but it was slightly more challenging to deliver this information if the dogs started barking! Thankfully though, for the most part, they were pretty zonked out from the exercise (which we did first for this very reason) and they just chilled out while us humans got on with the serious stuff. Alfie even took himself off to hide in the hall, he was so exhausted!
BZ: Sounds like it went pretty smoothly, all things considered! So here’s the big one – tell us about the outcomes? Were the participants successful?
Katie: All of the people that completed the programme lost weight and made some great healthy behaviour changes. They all reported better eating habits and feeling better about their relationship with food, AND they all have been getting more active outside of the group, with a few members even joining the gym. So yes, it was successful in terms of a healthy lifestyles service! But on top of that, the social experience was fantastic for all of us involved. The dogs got to socialise and the humans made meaningful relationships – they’ve been going walking together, out for lunch together, and looking after each others dogs! One day, Alfie even came to hang out in our office!
BZ: Ah yes we loved having Alfie in the office the other week! And what about the dogs – how did they get on on the programme?
Katie: As I mentioned they all got to socialise, which is really important, and they had loads of fun and improved drastically at the agility challenges. We had a local vet do health checks of the dogs too and I’m happy to report that Abi dropped half a point on the body conditioning scale (which is kind of like BMI for dogs!) meaning she’s fitter and lost a bit of weight.
BZ: And what about you?! Would you want to lead on this group again?
Katie: Absolutely! It was really successful and really enjoyable – getting to work with dogs is always a bonus! We had always planned for this pilot group to be a bit of an experiment, we never expected it to be perfect and have taken several learnings to further develop the BeeZee Dogs programme, so I can’t wait to make it even better next time!
BZ: Finally, what advice would you give to someone wanting to start the programme? And why choose BeeZee Dogs over another weight management group?
Katie: If you are keen to make healthy changes, but perhaps a little nervous about joining a group, BeeZee Dogs is fantastic because the dogs act a social buffer and give everyone a reason to get chatting. Everyone finds it easier to strike up a conversation when it’s about their dog! And what we hypothesised about creating supportive relationships turned out to be true – so you’re likely to have more success on your weight loss journey the more at ease you feel with your fellow group members. It’s a great and very unique opportunity for you and your dog which can bring amazing health and social benefits to you both.