Does Your Dog Need to “Work Out”?
sports hound – dogue de bordeaux with funny expression wearing football jersey sitting isolated on white background
I love dog sports.
I used to hate competing and there is still a part of me that does; but I love that it requires me to spend time with my dog!
I have often been someone who needs an excuse to make my, sometimes, lazy rear end get into a groove.
- A job that gets me up early
- A weight loss program where I have to weigh in..
- A class that makes me study
- Or a goal (like a half marathon) that makes me run even when I don’t feel like it
Dog sports have taken a spot in my life!
Not only were my dog Fury and I invited to an AKC national obedience event.
I have recently been invited to compete in a Dock Diving National Event called “Fetch It” with my little Malinois “Pharaoh” who I affectionately call Ziiiiiiiippy!
Interestingly, I have friends who also garnered an invite but in a slightly different variation of the sport.
You can safely say that we are all very proud of our furry children.
And, they are also avid dog sport competitors!
But Most People
But most people don’t understand the physical and technical side of dog sports!
I see people who want to compete in certain sports, stroll up with obese dogs.
Sure, obese dogs can do some things… but their physical abilities are seriously limited and their physical risks are greatly enhanced.
- I don’t want my dogs to rip their cruciate (knee) ligament.
- I don’t want my dog to have spinal injuries.
- I don’t want to make arthritis worse or overbearing!
- I don’t want to kill my dog
I only want to have fun with my dog!
Let’s Break it Down
Would you expect a 500# person to go for a several mile run?
Would you even expect him/her to play catch in the back yard with you?
We understand that obese and morbidly obese people can’t exercise like people of a healthy weight.
Often, these people complain about their backs aching, and their joints hurting. They don’t sleep well because they can’t get comfortable. They don’t breathe well because their lungs and heart have a hard time compensating for the extra stress and tissue to oxygenate.
If You Were to Ask
If you were to ask your obese or overweight friend or family member to engage in rigorous physical activity with you; they would undoubtedly decline.
They understand their limitations and their pain.
Plus people get overwhelmed, intimidated, embarrassed and fall back into bad habits.
But Dogs Will Injure Themselves
But dogs want to please us.
Dogs have a desire to be involved.
A dog will unknowingly push himself to the point of injury without understanding what the possible repercussions could be!
In fact, I have seen dogs persevere through bite work with broken teeth, walk on torn ligaments, and even try to walk on broken bones.
Dogs typically are a lot stronger than we humans are, but they are also susceptible to the same dangerous injuries.
It is our job as dog owners to ensure that physical exercise be it mild, moderate, or strenuous is safe for our furry friends.
Start with an Appropriate Weight
As we discussed earlier an appropriate weight is critical.
I keep my dogs on the skinny and svelte side for more on that click here.
Remember chubby or over weight dogs are more prone to injury!
Sometimes it is best to reduce weight prior to a real exercise program (almost any dog can go for a long slow walk) but if you are wondering; please check with your vet!
Don’t hook a dog that has never been on a regular walk, much less a run up to a bike!
I love running my dogs next to my bike, for more on that click here https://thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/exercise/
But I start out with brisk long walks and then slowly increase their duration to exercise.
Dogs are natural born athletes.
Their muscles adjust and compensate much quicker than ours!
So after a brief period of adjustment I increase their exercise.
I have found that my dogs want to run so fast that they will tear their paw pads! So this is just another reason that I start small and work my way up with strenuous exercise. I want their whole body to be able to adjust to the change.
I also stretch my dogs.
I stretch them after their muscles have gotten a little warm.
Stretch cold muscles can be hard on the body and hard on the muscle; just like humans should warm up prior to a good stretch and after rigorous exercise.
Stretching will help your dog’s muscles not become so sore (yes, dogs get sore muscles too… sometimes we just don’t notice).
I find that a lot of people also over look balance exercises.
Have you ever done yoga or worked your core?
The people who have will know just what a great work out it is!
Have you ever done a “plank”.
Just one to two minutes balanced on your toes and forearms can be exhausting.
Try it, it will make your whole body quiver.
Or do low squats on a wall!
Humans recognize the benefits of strengthening their “whole core” to make it stronger to avoid injury.
Yoga can be AMAZING for human athletes, even football players know the benefits of yoga and strengthening their core and lengthening their muscles.
Dogs have “Fit Paws” or fit disks that are flat on top and like a ball on the bottom (humans use the same things to help with core balance).
They also have wobble boards which also help dogs learn to use their whole core for balance while standing on a moving board.
This can really help to condition them for any sport with which you might want to compete!
I have friends who teach their dogs to balance on a rope, on a barrel, to “sit pretty” on a rope. There really is no limit.
They key is to remember, muscles are muscles. Your dogs’ muscles are more adept. Their muscles convert from fast twitch to slow twitch for endurance much quicker than ours.
But muscles are muscles.
The more in shape you are, the less prone to injury you are.
The heavier you are, the more prone to injury you are.
Don’t be reckless, don’t set your dog up for injury.
Things like balancing on a rope, may take months of work, training and assistance on your part!
Just remember, if you expect to have an athlete; train and condition your dog to be an athlete so that you can enjoy a long fruitful career together.
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.