The Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge, a trio of invitational competitions sponsored annually by the dog food manufacturer, is the inspiration behind the company’s revolutionary new app. Launched in January of this year, P5 allows any dog the chance to measure its participation in the kinds of activities usually reserved for serious canine competitors.

P5 gives dog owners the mobile technology to set and track personalized fitness goals in six activities: agility, diving dog, flying disk, obedience, running and strength training. “The app is divided into two main parts,” according to Robert Tochterman, brand manager for Nestlé Purina PetCare. “The first are the six training modules. These are broken down into four or five segments leading you from introduction to expert level.” Each segment is featured in its own one-to-two minute video that provides just enough motivation to get started. The app’s second feature is its ability to track activity over time.

“The first and most important step is to find out what motivates your individual dog,” according to the app’s motivational video. “Once you figure out what motivates your dog, you’ll be ready to have fun and be successful with your dog training.”

Because I’ve had Irish Water Spaniels for nearly 30 years, it seemed only natural to give P5 a test drive through its diving dog application.

Kurre the Irish Water Spaniel enjoys nothing more than making a splash! Photo by Dan Sayers.

My dog, Kurre, was introduced to the joys of hurling herself into water at the parent club’s first dock diving event in 2010. Her initial dive of 17 feet 2 inches showed me that she enjoys nothing so much as making a splash. Kurre’s been diving into various ponds and lakes since then, but for P5 I chose to keep her in the safe confines of a swimming pool.

To get started, I plugged in information for Kurre including her name, gender, age, breed, weight and body condition. I created an estimated weekly regimen with a goal of just over an hour of high impact activity (or three hours of medium impact and five hours of low impact.) High impact is the only appropriate level for an Irish Water Spaniel!

Once our fitness goals were established, we headed to the pool where I spent 25 minutes on the first day throwing a bumper into the pool for Kurre to retrieve. On each successive day, we spent only 15 minutes in the water, although that was just long enough for Kurre to get warmed up.

After each session, I updated Kurre’s activity log to track her progress. Purina’s Tochterman says that P5 uses this information to establish “greatness points.” He explains: “When you set up the profile…all of the dog’s attributes affect an algorithm that translates the activity and time spent into a point system.” Reaching weekly goals and completing training sessions accumulates points that can be used to measure each dog’s progress. In our first week of training, Kurre’s 85 minutes of activity resulted in 26 greatness points, and we exceeded our goal by 23 percent.

Although greatness points do not measure the expenditure of energy, the P5 app is designed to account for an individual dog’s energy requirements. Older dogs and small dogs, for example, are awarded points based on their unique physiology.

High-energy dogs, like those that compete in the Incredible Dog Challenge, depend on a high quality diet, but it’s important for senior dogs like Kurre to stay active and healthy too.

Brian Zanghi, Ph.D., from the Nestlé Purina Research Center says that along with exercise, twice daily feedings can help to establish an activity pattern that’s more “youthful” for the veteran performer. “The recommendation for older pets is to switch them to a twice a day feeding. This provides protein from the diet on a more balanced distribution over the course of the day which helps to assist in maintaining muscle mass.”

Zanghi notes that while balanced nutrition is always important, it’s really essential for very active dogs. “You have to incorporate high quality ingredients in order to get a high quality product. By providing that optimal balance of individual nutrients you can provide the best health for the muscles, the immune system and the gut.”

P5 technology, when combined with a balanced diet, provides the built-in motivation and the support needed for all of us to help our dogs achieve their goals. Pro Plan’s motto, “Inside every good dog is a great dog,” encourages owners to discover their dogs’ full potential.

Now if I can just find a place for Kurre to safely dock dive during the Mid-Atlantic winters.

To download the App from the Apple itunes App store Click here. If you have Android click here for Google Play