I have noticed that there are quite a few people, from sport and working dog owners through to pet owners that feel that canine fitness training is really just a fad. I actually know some handlers who actually laugh at some of my observations – they think it is overly dramatic. Of course, I have also seen some of the dogs they train carry preventable injuries.
So, what do I think of the above question?
Fitness fad? No! Fitness is a vital necessity, of course!
Let me tell you why I say so. Physical activity is key for both humans and dogs. Ask any human athlete or health practitioner. It keeps the body functioning, moving and gets all systems working together.
Not only is physical activity good for the body, but it has a profoundly positive effect on the mind too.
Then some people say they just go hiking or swimming with their dog and that is just fine.
Super! But unfortunately, some people don’t have access to a pool or dam. N to they have big parks or hiking trails to go on where the terrain is full of different shapes, surfaces and footwork challenges. People are stuck at home due to lockdowns (again) and people living in experience extreme climates of hot or cold. These conditions make it difficult to have a happy outdoors experience.
The Benefits of fitness training
But just as active humans can benefit from indoor training to enhance their sporting activities both mentally and physically, so can dogs.
There are various pieces of equipment that you can readily purchase. You can even make some great equipment easy indoor fitness which is exciting for you and your dog. Equipment may range from expensive to using items lying around at home. Both equally provide an awesome workout for your dogs. Various equipment, expensive and/or homemade, is used in a variety of different and effective ways.
Hook up with someone that knows!
A knowledgeable fitness trainer can easily show you how to get the maximum benefit from the most basic equipment that you may have available.
The benefits of simple extra exercise, like with humans, are mind-blowing!
If you are interested in doing extra fitness and conditioning exercise, start simply.
Avoid the extreme purchase of equipment you saw on XYZ.
There are major potential injury and developmental risks to doing this which you want to avoid.
I have been teaching strength and body awareness for some time and I receive messages from clients explaining how their dog’s performance has improved. They find their results absolutely amazing. Improved canine performance in fitness transfers exponentially into sports. We can see this in IGP to Agility to Flyball and more, even reaching the Conformation ring.
Your aim is to include exercises that produce a balanced program. You want to move your dog’s body in every direction safely while providing enough sets and repetitions to ensure a healthy workout.
Watch for signs of fatigue. Exercising through fatigue is dangerous because I dogs cannot communicate to us in a language we understand. We need to watch them and understand their signals.
Are you unsure how to start? Don’t have this knowledge or don’t know enough about designing a balanced fitness program that suits your dog? Please look for a certified specialist who does. This is one of the first steps that cannot be overemphasised.
If you are involved in a sport, it’s important that the specialist you look for is familiar with the requirements and activities of your sport. Each sport has slightly different focus areas which are important to address.
To conclude, fitness training and the tools used provide enormous mental and physical challenges for our dogs. The benefits should never be underestimated as simply a fitness fad.
Fads generally come and go, but once you start fitness training, you go deeper and deeper into it. Fitness lasts your dog’s entire life. It should never be considered a fad. Rather, fitness is an integral part of your dog’s healthy life and training program.