Cross training provides similar benefits to canine athletes as it does to human athletes. If you have a competitive dog who participates in a sport, maintaining condition between competitions is important to prevent injury. Whether your goal is to keep your dog in shape for a sporting competition or to prevent injury in your pet dog, conditioning exercises are important, and a fun way to bond with your dog.
Balanced conditioning incorporates endurance, strength training, and balance and core strength.
With endurance training, the goal is to maintain a steady pace over a long period of time. Endurance training is about conditioning the heart and lungs rather than about developing muscle strength.
The best way to improve endurance is to maintain a steady trot for a minimum of 20 minutes. The trot is the most efficient and balanced gait. It can be helpful to use a land treadmill or an underwater treadmill to maintain the pace.
Endurance training can be done as often as 2-3 times a week.
Strength training involves short, intense bursts of movement or exercises that target specific muscle groups. This is beneficial for most dogs. Most of these activities can be done within a small amount of space.
Examples of strength training: short retrieves, sit-to-stands, down-to-stands, dancing, wheelbarrowing.
Strength training requires 48 hours for recovery, so it should be done on alternate days, twice a week.
Balance and Core Strength
Balance and core strengthening exercises are often overlooked in the dog, but are the most important for most athletes. These exercises improve body awareness. For this reason, they improve athletic ability and prevent injury.
These exercises include anything that engages the core. Examples include: figure 8s, sit up and beg, cross-leg standing, and cavalettis. The addition of inflatable exercise equipment can make any of these exercises more challenging and help with body awareness training.
These exercises can be done daily.
Special Consideration by Sport:
- Agility – Agility requires that dogs go over obstacles, change direction quickly, and touch contacts. Strength training, body awareness, balance and core strength are important.
- Conformation – Dogs in conformation competition need to be able to move with fluidity and have a good topline. Endurance training at the trot and core strengthening exercises can keep them in shape and help them look their best.
- Dock Diving – Dock diving dogs need speed and strength for an explosive start and a strong jump, as well as body awareness and core strength so they don’t injure themselves in the air.
- Flying Disc Dogs – Disc dogs compete in distance and accuracy and also in freestyle. They need strength for sprinting and jumping as well as body awareness and core strength for accuracy and freestyling.
- Herding – Herding dogs are constantly moving, so endurance is important. They also need core strength to be able to make sudden turns.
- Hunting and Field Trials – Field trial dogs require speed and strength. They also need balance and core strength to navigate unpredictable terrain.