What is canine conditioning? It’s a structured exercise program that achieves different results depending upon the goals for your dog. If, for example, you have a canine athlete, conditioning is an exercise program geared to increase your dog’s competitive edge and minimize damage or potential injury that can occur during an athletic performance.
If you compete in conformation events, conditioning is all about achieving the optimal physical look, so the dog physically conforms to the breed standard as best as is possible. If your dog is overweight, a conditioning program will help him take the weight off. For the average dog, conditioning can focus on keeping a dog healthy.
What’s included in a canine conditioning program? Typically, most conditioning programs include exercises that:
• improve balance and proprioception,
• promote joint and core stabilization,
• increase range of motion,
• improve cardiovascular/respiratory function
• build muscle mass, strength, speed and endurance, and,
• improve a dog’s overall physical, mental and emotional condition.
Types of conditioning exercises can include swimming, treadmill workouts, walking or running on different terrains, interval training, Pilates-type exercises to improve core strength, and Cavaletti drills to improve balance and hind-end awareness. And don’t forget stretching, an important component of any exercise program.
Depending on your dog and your goals, the program you design may be geared more toward endurance, or toward balance type work. For example, if you have a breed that is a natural distance runner, you may want to focus on a program that builds endurance. If you want to do agility with your dog, your focus may be on balance and body awareness exercises. In either of these examples, this doesn’t mean you should ignore the other components of a conditioning program, it just means you should focus on one aspect more than the others.
Just like you would do in a gym, design a program for your dog that includes different exercises on different days, with days of rest built in. Canine conditioning is one of the best ways to keep your dog in shape, and help them age gracefully. And that’s ultimately what we all want!
Sherri Cappabianca, an expert in canine health and fitness, is the author of two books on canine health, and the co-owner of Rocky’s Retreat Canine Health & Fitness Center, and Barking Dog Fitness, Orlando’s only gym for dogs. For more information, visit rockysretreat.com or barkingdogfitness.com