In addition to being a world-renowned gymnast, Gabby Douglas is just like us. Well, most of us haven’t won gold medals or made gymnastics history, but Douglas still likes to enjoy her time off and hang with her pets. In fact, she describes herself as a “huge dog lover,” with three dogs: a black lab mix, a Morkie, and a Pomeranian Chihuahua Pug Mix who she loves spending time with. “I walk them everyday and we go on our little hikes,” she tells Bustle. To show her love for pets even more, Douglas participated in Purina Pro Plan’s Incredible Dog Challenge with her Morkie, Chandler.
The competition, which is sponsored by the brand, features an Olympic-style course where owners can guide their dogs through multiple obstacles, including flying disc events, head-to-head races, dog diving, and even surfing among other agility courses. Douglas saw the challenge as an opportunity to not only have fun with her dog, but to also see the many talents of the other pets and owners participating. “I love the challenge because it just showcases what these dogs can do,” she says. “At the same time, it keeps them fit, it keeps them healthy, and they're staying active. They're doing what they love.”
As a two-time Olympic gymnast, Douglas is obviously used to being trained for her own events. She switched up the dynamic this time around though, training Chandler herself for the many obstacle courses instead of hiring a professional. “I was just running with him up and down throughout the house; I was putting like tape from wall to wall to see if he could jump over,” she says. “I would run with him with a piece of bread because he loves bread.” She says even though the experience of training was slightly different than what she’s used to, she enjoyed getting to play with her dog in a new way. “I only had a little bit of experience, a little taste of what that was like,” she says. “But it was super fun just to be out there on the field with my dog.”
Having to train Chandler every day for the challenge kept her fit, she says, especially since she’s on a break from gymnastics. She points out that her dogs are an integral part to her fitness and self-care routine. “They keep me on my toes, so I love that,” she says. “We all push each other.”
Achieving fitness goals is actually more likely for people who own dogs, according to studies reported by Active.com. One study from the University of Michigan found that taking your dog for a walk can increase your leisure-time physical activity by 69%, and dog owners are more likely to walk about 150 minutes a week. Active.com also cites a University of Missouri study that found that walking with your dog increases your walking speed 28%, which is about six times faster than walking with a friend.
Even though taking care of her dogs definitely keeps her healthy, Douglas says she’s enjoying her time off to rest, relax, and engage in her hobbies. But, she’s more than eager to show everyone how Chandler, and the other pets, did in the Incredible Dog Challenge. “I'm just excited to share this project with everyone,” she says. “I got to do it with my Morkie, so that was so fun.”