I am one of those people who loves going to the gym. But while the gym helps me stay in shape, it doesn’t help my dog. And, ultimately, physical conditioning is important for both me and my dog if we want to do our best at competitions.
Why does physical conditioning matter for agility?
Ever hear the term “weekend warrior”? Well, basically, it means someone who is sedentary most of the time, but then occasionally decides to be active…typically in some sort of sport or competition.
Why is that a bad thing? Simple. If you are not taking the time to prep your body for an upcoming activity you are at greater risk of injury. And, like I mentioned earlier, when that comes to dog agility, that physical prep should include both you and your dog.
So, what activities can you do that help you and your dog get in shape or stay in shape?
Walking, swimming, frisbee (chase/retrieve games), and harness activities are a few ways to control weight, build muscle, increase endurance, and have fun while getting fit with your dog.
Fitness is just as important for your dog as it is for you. Regular exercise is an important factor in keeping both you and your dog healthy and physically fit.
What is Fitness?
Fitness is sometimes described as the physical ability to perform a function. Of course, there are varying degrees of fitness so not all dogs have to be a competing athlete like an agility dog to enjoy a happier healthier life. However, fitness is especially important if a dog sport is your goal.
Regardless, a few minutes of activity done every day can greatly improve your dog’s health and fitness levels.
Benefits of Fitness
Being active and fit improves quality of life and delays the effects of aging. Regular activity improves muscle tone, bone density, joint flexibility, and heart health, reducing the risk and impact of many diseases.
Physical activity helps control weight by burning calories and helping the body continue to burn calories even when at rest. Exercise also gets the endorphins flowing. This means being happier and less stressed!
Physically fit dogs (and people) will enjoy:
- Better sleep
- Fewer behavior problems (due to less stress)
- Greater flexibility (which reduces risk of injury)
- Lower risk of arthritis
- Lower chances of obesity
- Lower occurrences of injuries
- Reduced risk from illnesses such as cancer and heart disease
Dangers of Obesity
The dangers of obesity include a greater risk of heart disease, diabetes, joint pain and inflammation, heat intolerance, weakened immune system, and breathing difficulties. Obesity also aggravates diseases such as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease.
In summary, obesity can shorten your dog’s life and lessen the quality of his life. A growing percentage of dogs are overweight in the US, and this is especially concerning if you have sports goals with your dog. Remember, extra weight means extra stress on the joints and body as you train and compete in dog agility.
In general, it is easier to prevent your dog from becoming overweight in the first place than it is to help him lose weight. However if your dog is suffering from a bit of “extra meat on his bones”, that doesn’t mean your dreams of doing agility with your dog are over!
Rather, you will want to make sure you stick to flat-work and lowered equipment to minimize stress on his body while you work on his weight loss. That leaves you plenty of time to get him in shape while setting a solid foundation for competitive agility!
Ideas for Keeping You and Your Dog Fit
Keeping your dog fit can be an opportunity for fun and building the bond you share. Dogs make great exercise partners!
After discussing your dog’s fitness levels and exercise tolerance with your veterinarian and/or a trainer, start with a few minutes each day of additional, fun activity with your canine teammate.
- Climb the stairs several times with your dog
- Play a game of fetch or Frisbee
- Set up a make-shift agility course of cones, tunnels, and jump wings (no height/bars) and then run it with your dog
- Take your dog for a brisk walk, jog, run, or bike ride
- Take your dog for a swim
Getting fit with your dog will improve your and your dog’s health and allow you both a longer and more enriched life.
Have a suggestion for getting fit with your dog? What do you do to get fit with your dog? Share in the comments!