Preparing a Dog for Work or Sport

Preparing a dog physically for sport or work isn’t a particularly common occurrence, most people’s dogs gain fitness when training or competing. This is a recipe for injured dogs.

Over time I have noticed that a percentage of dogs that train in my Training in Drive programs at some stage may suffer an injury. I do a lot of research and development in these programs to ensure that the movements and actions I am teaching have the lowest impact on dog and handler, but I have come to release that the injuries are not synonymous with my programs, nor are they synonymous with the sport of the work that the dogs do. They are due to a dog that is not prepared physically for the job or event.

People will train the elements of the job or sport so their dog knows what to do, those that are more serious may engage me to help train the dogs mind to utilize drive to power that dog through the sport or job, but so few of us cross train our dogs to prepare them for the job they will actually be doing.

This leaves a dog without the physical fitness to manage the event without fatigue, the dog begins the work and fatigues half way through, it is unable to generate enough strength to stabilise its limbs and ends up with an injury. This in turn means they are out of the event, sometimes for a while, sometimes for good..

I believe that instead of “on the job fitness building“, the dog should be prepared for the event, be it work or sport before attempting the event.

There are several aspects of the dogs physical preparedness that we need to consider, these can often be categorised into two groups: –

Stamina and Endurance

This type of fitness is often based on cardio work, interval training and extending the dogs performance duration.

The benefits of this type of training are:

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  • A Sustained performance that doesn’t drop off after a period of time.
  • Improvement in confidence and motivation for the sport or job.
  • A more consistent performance through a number of repetitions making training more accurate.
  • Sustained performance in varying weather conditions.
  • A healthier, faster more competitive dog.

Strength and Condition

This is one of the most overlooked areas that I feel needs to be one of the most important, as it won’t directly improve performance, such as times etc, it seems less of a priority for people to consider or invest time in, but it is the most expensive area to ignore when injuries are gained.

Expensive in time lost, rehab therapy and perhaps even a retired dog.

The benefits are huge when you strengthen and condition your dog some of the benefits are: –

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  • Increased muscular strength
  • More efficient dog, less fat to carry, more muscle to use
  • Increased Stability and Balance
  • Increased core and truck strength
  • Decreased fatigue, motivation loss and stress

It isn’t all that complicated really but I guess moist people don’t cross train for strength and condition as it is done separate to the actual work or sport and its training.

All my training in drive programs all have cross training exercises in them, so implement these into your training and watch your dog go from competitor to winner.

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Steve Courtney


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One comment

  1. As one of the ones with an injured dog I like this article alot 🙂 You make very good points and thinbgs I will be remembering with my pup

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