12 September 2011

Conditioning again

Recently had another conversation with someone about conditioning. Yet another person who is getting more serious about agility and realized that conditioning is pretty complicated! I applaud people like that who begin to take an active interest in getting their dogs fit! Preventing injury and giving your dog the competitive edge involves a lot more than just agility obstacles and handling skills or even jumping skills. Conditioning away from agility is very important, and I try to make sure the vast majority of what my dogs do has nothing at all to do with agility. Every single day we go for at least one 10-20minutes walk around our fields. And as I've mentioned before, my dogs aren't allowed to run "like greyhounds" unless I've told them to. They are limited to walk/trot/canter/sniff as their speeds when we are walking. Which is plenty! It keeps them from getting all bound up and sore, and limits the impact of the exercises, and also prevents stupid injuries from pivoting at high speed or running into each other. A few days a week I may release them to rip and run for a quick minute or two by making a "shhhhhhh" sound and running a bit myself - sprint work is good in small doses - but the majority of our walks are walks, and the dogs spend most of that time trotting, which is perfect. Generally we do about 15 minutes before breakfast and 15minutes in the evening as well. In addition to this, a few times a week when the weather is nice I take 2 of them on a leashwalk at Fair Hill for 30-60minutes. This has more hills and also makes me work harder, which is good because I'm lazy. Of course we do agility 1 to 3 times a week, but the last few weeks we haven't even done much of that due to the awful weather.

And the piece most people are missing which is SO EASY to do and the dogs love it - core work! Your dog's core is a very important collection of muscles, involving both the abdomen and the back, and it helps the dog accelerate, decelerate, turn, take off for jumps and land, control their speed on contacts, and power through weave poles. If you're only working one dog, it seriously  only takes 3-5 minutes, 3 or 4 times a week! How easy is that??

Here's a much-edited video of a workout with all of my guys in the living room. I cut a lot of stuff out so you don't have to watch one dog do the same exercise in both directions over and over. I see a lot of people doing core work involving speed and jumping at the same time - I don't do that at all. i don't feel it's necessary to involve jumping in everything I do, and I would much rather save "jumping days" for handling work or jump grids. I don't jump my dogs more than 3 times a week, usually less, and always with a day of no jumping afterwards (except at a trial, obviously). I always do core work inside, with treats, and without a lot of speed. It's like lifting weights for dogs - no running needed. It's all about building muscle.

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