Conditioning: It’s Not Just for Hair

Whenever I open my big mouth, or whatever the Internet equivalence of that is, about canine fitness I’m often asked if I could give an example of a conditioning program.  Now, I am not opposed to giving one, actually I like designing these programs, but it’s really not as simple as it may seem.

I come to the dog-sporting world not from the dog- training world, but via the human sporting world.  I was a collegiate athlete and have experienced first hand how a good conditioning program can make or break a sporting career.  As a dog owner, I came face-to-face with the realization of how important a conditioning program is when Tess found her way into my life.  Upon arrival Tess was an under conditioned 4 ½ year old who got winded from just one trip around the block.  So to remedy the situation I collected all my resources and got to work on our conditioning program.  Yes, OURS!

So fast forward 6 years and even though Tess is now retired from agility WE are still participating in OUR conditioning program, which has been modified as needed of course, but is still going strong.  It’s a program that we both do together.  We run together, we “swim” together, I push her and she pushes me.  Just recently, as she creeps toward eleven years old, I had to cut back on the number of miles she runs per week and I had to “girl up” and learn to be ok with running solo.  I don’t know whom this change was harder on, her or me.

When I design a conditioning program it begins with YOU.  What are YOUR goals?  How much time and space do YOU have available?  What equipment do YOU already have?  How fit are YOU?  I first build a conditioning program around YOU and then, and only then, do I add your dog and all its variables into the formula.

From my experience, the best conditioning program is individualized and is designed around the athlete (human or dog).  When an athlete is built around a conditioning program one of two things usually occur.  The program becomes unbalanced and injuries start to appear (one of the leading causes of iliopsoas injuries, in my book) or the program becomes impractical and/or burdensome and it is discontinued, all the while the athlete continues to compete!

So, can you see why I hesitate when asked to design a conditioning program by a group?  I can confidently say that all canine conditioning programs need to be balanced with equal parts eccentric, concentric, isometric, plyometric, proprioception, flexibility, and endurance (don’t panic, multiple parts can be incorporated into one exercise).  But really, what exactly a conditioning program looks like is up to YOU.  Oh and by the way, it took three years for me to feel that Tess’s body was ready for agility.  How long did it take for your dog’s body to be ready for its first agility class?

Any questions?  Join my growing yahoo-group called poodles-in-motion.  Right now we are analyzing a 17″ poodle jumping at 16″, 22″, and 26″.  Thank you Diane for a great series of videos.

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