By Whitebridge Pet Brands Staff
People are spending more time outdoors and for many pet owners, this means taking their dogs on long runs and hikes, swimming at the beach, or cycling on a bike leash. Some people are even exploring new canine sports that they and their dog can enjoy together, such as agility or dock diving, even if it’s just for fun and not formal competition.
However, just like humans, dogs need to be in good physical shape before they step up their game. Many veterinarians and canine health experts advise that before taking on a new, strenuous activity, dogs should be given conditioning exercises to build their stamina gradually. Like two-legged athletes, they need to maintain their energy and resilience for the duration of the activity. Plus, conditioning can improve dogs’ coordination and flexibility, making them less likely to suffer injuries than “canine couch potatoes” when running alongside a bicycle or hitting the Flyball track.
Trainers’ Role in Fitness
Professional dog trainers are in an excellent position to help clients prepare their dogs for a more active lifestyle. As a first step, trainers should always advise their clients to visit the veterinarian before engaging in a new sport to ensure the activity doesn’t pose a health or injury risk, given their dog’s age, breed and medical history. For example, puppies’ growing bones and joints are fragile, so very young dogs shouldn’t participate in high-impact sports such as agility.
Once the vet has given the green light, trainers can help their clients develop a safe and effective canine-conditioning routine. Specific drills may vary depending on the sport a dog is being primed for. Still, the American Kennel Club advises that specific basic warm-up exercises will improve the average canine’s ability to take on any increased physical activity. These include stretching exercises, which are great for keeping dogs limber and “puppy push-ups,” which are excellent warm-ups and muscle builders for canines of all ages.
Teaching Warm-Up Moves
Getting dogs involved in conditioning exercises has the added benefit of honing their obedience skills. Training a dog to perform an exercise like stretching on cue is no different than teaching any other command: capturing or shaping the desired behavior and positively reinforcing it.
As with any training, it’s essential to use reward treats that a dog finds so enticing he’ll immediately become motivated to learn the exercise. We strongly suggest our Crazy Dog® Train-Me! Mini Training Rewards, which are recommended and relied on by professional dog trainers nationwide because their aroma and taste are so irresistible to canines. The treats are made with real meat as their #1 ingredient and come in delicious bacon, beef and chicken flavors. Plus, at just 1.5 calories per treat, they can be given repeatedly for reinforcement without weighing down canine athletes.
Along with conditioning exercises like stretching and push-ups, pet owners should prep their dog for a new physical activity by introducing it to them gradually. Experts advise jogging with a dog no more than 10–15 minutes a day for a couple of weeks before working up to 30-minute or longer daily runs to build stamina. If a client plans to take adventurous hikes, they should start on flat terrain and progress to steeper paths with more challenging obstacles (image right). By steadily pushing the envelope, dogs, like humans, will naturally increase their athletic ability, energy and stamina.
Boost Energy and Vitality
Like people, dogs can also benefit from taking a break for some energy-boosting refreshment during a vigorous sport or activity. After all, humans have their sports drinks and power bars, which is why we introduced Dogswell® ENERGY Extended Activity Fuel, a new USA-sourced canine performance treat formulated to energize and hydrate dogs during long periods of activity. Made with chicken as its main ingredient and blended with healthy fats from MCT-rich coconut oil, the treat is high in protein and calories to provide long-lasting energy. It comes in a velvety mousse format and is rich in moisture, offering a quick and easy way to hydrate dogs during physical activities. Dogs lick the delectable mousse treat right out of its convenient tube packaging—and they’re refreshed and ready to get back on the trail or agility course.
Of course, maintaining dogs’ overall health and vigor is another step that can make them more energetic and better equipped to take on challenging physical activities. That’s the idea behind another new functional treat: Dogswell VITALITY Jerky, which is formulated specifically to support canine health and vitality. This innovative jerky treat combines 100 percent USA-sourced meat protein—chicken or beef—with antioxidant-rich fruit, coconut oil, ginger and honey. The jerky is available in two varieties, Chicken & Mango and Beef & Banana and contains no grain, by-products, or artificial colors or flavors. When given regularly, this protein packed jerky will help keep canine athletes in glowing health and at the top of their game.