Extreme Fitness Exercise — We see these with humans all the time. The circus, sports for strength, flexibility, speed, endurance – they all have extremes. We have seen some of these extreme outcomes, but we also gasp thinking: are they Safe?
I come from a family where extreme sports conditioning was a “norm”. The sport in question – bodybuilding and power sports such as weight- and powerlifting.
Seeing these competitors taking their bodies to the extreme of their sport, I questioned whether even though it was possible to create a freakishly lean and strong body, was it safe? So, when we look at what is absolutely possible with our bodies, are we also asking “is it safe?”
Speaking with these athletes, the surprising answer is that at the height of their competition, being on stage is when they are the most “unsafe”. Their bodies are at such a fine balance that the smallest variance or deviation, either way, is extremely dangerous to their health.
How does this relate to canine fitness and conditioning?
The internet provides the opportunities to watch so many videos posted by canine fitness enthusiasts, owners and others on exercises they are performing with their dogs. Most of these are of advanced exercises which are much too extreme for most dogs.
There are no disclaimers on any of these videos. No warnings are posted to show the average person these are advanced exercises or that you should not try them at home with the average dog.
Of course, there are many disclaimers on things people do that may seem a bit outrageous. The ‘Do not try this at home’ announcement or banner across the screen is everywhere with many activities in the human world, but not in the canine world.
Like all good dog owners, many people are eager to do whatever they can to help their dog. Our dogs will, of course, do as much as they can to please their owner. All too often this may be to the dog’s detriment.
Balancing Ability with Safety
Just because a dog CAN do something and it is POSSIBLE to train them to do it, does not mean it is APPROPRIATE and SAFE for them to do.
Many children would love to jump off the top of the playground set onto the sand or practice pitching baseballs for hours on end. While they may not all become injured, the probability is high that many of them will.
Most of us have learned from our past mistakes realized we should not do one thing or another with our dog.
Like you, I know people who have overworked their dog, or done something we should not have done with them and regretted it. I was one of those people.
It happened when I trained my dog too hard, too quickly after a rest period. She got injured. The injury healed but I missed an important competition. It was my own fault for not being my dog’s advocate and I completely regret it. This was a huge learning opportunity that I grabbed with both hands.
It is up to us, our dog’s biggest advocate, to choose the safest and smartest way to do things with them.
I have worked with some wonderful owners and some of the best trainers.
Unfortunately, I have also experienced the opposite side of that coin.
What I see is that those who have their dog’s best interest at heart are the ones who know when to stop. They realize that their dog’s health and safety is more important than one performance, one award or one title.
I have the utmost respect for a dog owner/handler that prevents their dog from doing something they think is harmful than one who pushes the dog beyond its limits.
Canine Fitness – a competitive sport?
Canine fitness appears to be evolving into a competitive sport with some people! It’s odd because there are no points, prizes or any reason for competing in fitness in the first place.
Is the dog bored with an exercise, or is the owner bored? They don’t have the patience to move slowly and repeat the same thing to safely build muscle? I would be willing to bet the dog would be pretty happy doing the same ‘boring’ activity for an excited “Yeah!”, tasty treat and your praise while building a solid foundation for more ‘exciting’ things.
We have moved into a world of flash actions and movement s (some of which are not even functional). People are looking for instant gratification and constant stimulation.
It is coming to light (fortunately) that this is not beneficial on so many levels.
Shortcuts Cut You Short
I was raised among professional athletes: bodybuilders, powerlifters, weightlifters, professional dancers and choreographers, 3rd dan and higher karate athletes and cyclists, both sprinting and long-distance. The most important thing in all their training was that there were never any shortcuts in their movement.
Their foundational exercises were strong and strict. Injuries occurred when these were compromised. Athletes whose basics and foundations are not in place are limited in their progress, both physically and in their sport.
Most of the conditioning dogs I work with on a regular basis are not initially ready to move onto these activities we see on the internet – they need to work on their basics first.
This includes the sport and working dogs I work with. One cannot progress to C if we have not mastered A and B.
Skipping steps while assembling something does not make for the successful completion of a project. Something WILL fail.
When we skip steps with our dogs, it is, unfortunately, the dog’s body that gets the short end of the stick. It is our dog’s body that will fail sooner rather than later.
Canine fitness only benefits you if it benefits your dog first.
You are in control of that benefit. Let it be in the best interest of your dog.
The Biokinetic K-9 designs balanced, safe and sport-specific fitness and conditioning programs. Achieve your dog’s optimal performance abilities!
REMEMBER: It is best to always consult with a veterinarian before starting any exercise program with your dog.