Fit Dog for All Sports
Show Dogs, Agility Dogs, Frisbee, Dock Diving, Field, Herding and Outdoor Adventurer Dogs all need canine conditioning to keep them fit and balanced. Traditionally, fitness has not even been considered or was achieved by “road-working” on treadmill or bicycle.
Dixie Rae Sick – 8 Simple Exercises for our Dogs
Dixie Rae Sick gives us eight simple exercises to achieve better fronts, toplines, strong rears, increased reach and drive, and balanced movement.
1. Slow Walking on Incline
Good to strengthen both you and your dog’s rear! Walk slowly up a 15-45% incline 5-10 minutes a few times per week. Outdoors is best. Try not to use the incline setting on the treadmill unless the weather has you inside.
2. Slow Walking on Downhill
Paired with Exercise 1, slow walking a 15-45% downhill strengthens the dog’s front. You don’t need a long, steep mountain for this… several up and down trips on a short stretch works too.
3. Reach and Drive Cavaletti Exercise
Place 6-12 poles on the ground or elevate 1 inch above ground. This is a low cavaletti exercise and we don’t want the dog to life the front leg as he trots. Space the poles the height at withers to start. Only one paw should touch between the poles at a trot. Increase the pole spacing 1 inch until the single paw at a trot goal is achieved. Each day increase the pole spacing 1 inch until the dog can’t do it correctly. Decrease the spacing back an inch and practice at that spacing for a week. After one week of success, increase the spacing another inch. Continue the same steps until the dog has reached the maximum spacing with the front paw just reaching over the pole. The Reach and Drive Low Cavaletti enables the dog to relax and utilize full length of stride.
4. Stand to Down, Down to Stand
Core Strength is built in the stand to down, down to stand exercise. Start with dog in stand position. Lure the dog with bait from nose to down between front paws. This is an accordion down, with no sit. Preferably the feet do not move.
Go slow. Lure the dog back up into the stand. Repeat 10 times. Core strength is built by moving slowly. Avoid the pop-up or pop-downs.
5. Static Stand for Topline Strength
While many show dogs can stand, this is a static stand for 10-30 seconds, balanced without moving the feet. Start on a level surface. You may use small blocks or foot stands to keep your dog from wanting to move his feet. Once you have the level stand, use a couch cushion, balance disc, or fit bone and have the dog stand with either the front or rear feet balanced on the disc. Work up to a 60 second stand.
5. Static Stand for Topline
While many show dogs can stand, this is a static stand for 10-30 seconds, balanced without moving the feet. stand on moving object – front end stable surface, rear on couch cushion/balance disc/
6. Static Stand with Head Movement
Same as exercise 5 Static Stand. While the dog is in the stand, use a treat to move the dog’s head slowly up and down, then right to left while maintaining the balanced stand.
7. Side Stepping
Works to strengthen the abductors. A little tricky, but you can both do it with practice.
Stand your dog perpendicular with tail to a wall. Use treat and your body language to get the dog to “sidestep” while maintaining the perpendicular angle to the wall. We don’t want him to turn, just sidestep. Try to go a few steps in one direction and back in the other.
8. Front Play Bow to Tighten Shoulders
Start in the stand position. Use a treat to lure the dog down until elbows touch the ground. Stop. Come back up to stand. We want the rear to stay in the air. Continue until the dog can slowly bow, hold it, and then return up to the stand. Advanced exercise is shown below with the dog’s rear elevated on the balance disc.
Tips on Road Work and Stretching
According to Dixie Rae Sick, road work beside a bicycle or on a treadmill is good for conditioning, but only trains the “trotting” muscles. These other exercises will help balance the overall dog. Also, if you do roadwork, please try to find softer surfaces such as dirt or grass rather than pounding on pavement.
Make sure the dog’s muscles are warmed up before stretching a dog. Please take the time to learn how to properly stretch. We will be doing a follow-up article focused just on stretching exercises.
Dixie Rae Sick will soon be seen at dog shows and events around the country demonstrating and helping with exercises appropriate for your special canine competitor.