Instructor: Debbie Gross
This course will give you an understanding of basic dog anatomy, basic conditioning for dogs, and general exercises. We'll work on conditioning exercises, endurance exercises, and strengthening exercises. In addition, you will gain an understanding of what types of exercises are appropriate for different types of sports as well as different dog breeds. This course is a must for any dog enthusiast and will serve as the base for many more conditioning classes to come.
There are no scheduled sessions for this class at this time. We update our schedule frequently, so please subscribe to our mailing list for notifications.
Registration starts at 10:00 AM PDT
Enrollment limits: 12 gold, 25 silver, unlimited bronze. If you are interested in bronze level, you can sign up any time during the registration period.
For answers to commonly asked questions see our FAQ page.
- What is conditioning, and why do you need to do it for your dog?
- Basic overview of the dogs’ body, and why you need to know!
- What is the dogs’ core, and why does it need to be worked?
- Can my dogs’ core fall off?
- Beginning exercises for conditioning, with following homework
- What is an appropriate amount of exercise for my dog?
- What are the differences between puppies, senior dogs, and all dogs in the middle?
- Why balance and proprioceptive exercises will be a staple for all good things to come.
- Balance and proprioceptive exercises for every type of dog – big and small
- What types and breeds of dogs are prone to certain injuries, and what you can do to help prevent them.
- What are the different types of activity demands of different sports – from agility to channel surfing
- Exercises to work on the dogs’ core – static and dynamic
- Weight loss tips
- How do I build a program for my dog?
- Exercise prescription – or what your dog should be doing each week
- Exercises for strengthening for power, hind end awareness, and forelimb awareness
- Injury prevention
- How do I implement a program into my life and my dogs’ lives?
- Puppy programs
- Programs for senior dogs
- How much is too much exercise?
- How can I add the exercises into everyday activities?
- How can I stick with a weight loss and conditioning program?
Week one begins with no equipment. It is not necessary, but I would recommend for most people to start out with some sort of balance equipment: balance disk, rocker board, Pawds, wedge and perhaps an Infinity. There are photos on my website www.totofit.com and Facebook page of what these look like. My goals is to make sure this class is NOT an informercial for equipment that may not fit your dog.
Please do not worry about the first week - you do not need anything, and equipment is just a suggestion. I don't want the equipment or lack of equipment to deter you from taking the course - it is such a great thing for your dogs' health! So, take it, and watch. You may want to add equipment to your program later! There are so many things to use in our environment, especially starting out!
Welcome everyone to Canine Conditioning! First, I want to commend ALL of you on taking this great step to improving both the quality of your dog’s life and your partnership with the dog. I am a firm believer that EVERY dog deserves to live the best quality of life for the longest time possible. There are so many simple steps we can take to offer this to our dogs, and conditioning is one of them. Plus, the better you understand your dog, the better you will be able to recognize problems, injuries, signs of aging, and signs of weakness. Whether your dog excels in agility, obedience, conformation, fly ball, or counter and couch surfing, I PROMISE this course will help you tremendously help your dog.
If something does not make sense to you at any time during the course, please let me know. If you are thinking something or questioning something, chances are someone else is also. I will stay on top of the forum to answer questions and comments!
So let's begin! First question I have for you: what do you do to keep your dog in shape? Don’t be shy to talk about what you do or don't do. This is why you are taking the course - to learn!
Conditioning is extremely important for all dogs. It does not matter what his age is; every dog needs activity and movement. Dogs are meant to be mobile creatures. Movement is life to them. If an animal cannot move, they cannot survive. This may not be too applicable in your young psycho pup, but it will be when that pup gets older and is relying on all of the strength, balance, and proprioception you conditioned him with in the beginning.
Conditioning is simply defined as a variety of exercises aimed at improving and maintaining strength, speed, agility, endurance, balance, and proprioception. Today we are going to pay special attention to the concept of strength.
I have a very simple approach to canine fitness. And I will constantly go over the basics and stick with simplicity and safety over complicated and risky. As with anything in this world, classic and steady always wins the race. There are many fads throughout the world - human exercise, canine exercise, clothing, hairstlyles, etc. However, at the end of the day, the classic always wins.
If you want to do this with your dog:
, then we have to do this:
If you want your dog to do this: , then we have to do this:
Our older dogs can benefit so greatly from some low level fitness activities. This is Tuckerman - an eleven year old very well loved Labrador. He started slowing down on his morning walks. Our first day of 'work' he preferred to relax. After two weeks, he is working like a champion on his fitness equipment! ,
Any dog can get to the extremes of any angle, sport, or activity, but the key will be maintaining that sport, angle or activity for as long as possible.
I also want to point out, equipment is an option. There are many things we can use for canine conditioing, including cushions at homes, natural obstacles, steps, hills, etc. I do not want anyone to feel pressured into buying anything until they understand what they need. You will find many options at home to get started!
How strong is your dog? Because we can’t measure our dog’s strength by how much weight they can bench press, we will do it in functional terms. How well can they perform certain activities? For example, we know a dog has good strength of their quadriceps or thigh muscles if they can sit squarely with their legs nicely tucked in.
Different activities require different strength. For example, dogs involved in lure coursing require a significant amount of strength throughout the body, including their toes and feet, to propel their body. Conformation requires a great deal of static or postural strength; these dogs need to stand for prolonged periods of time and maintain their posture. Dogs involved in sports such as dock diving and fly ball need explosive strength in their rear. That type of strength training is called plyometrics - or explosive powerful movements – and we will introduce that in the second level.
Core strength is important for EVERY dog, whether he is involved in sport or not. The muscles involved in core strength help support the body or frame. And while they are not all core muscles, many of the postural muscles assist in the foundation and core of the body. There are two types of muscle fibers in everyone’s body: the slow twitch and the fast twitch, or Type I and Type II respectively. The postural muscles are mainly comprised of slow twitch or Type I muscle fibers.
Examples of core muscles in people include our lower back muscles, our abdominals, our calves, and our chest. There are more, of course, but these are good examples because we have all probably been affected by these particular weak or fatigued core muscles at some point. A prime example of problems with our postural muscles is our back muscles. Very often, we are not kind to our backs with all of the sitting, driving, and lifting we do. If you have ever hurt your back, or sat too long in an uncomfortable chair, you may have noticed pain and weakness in your back. Once the pain starts, your lower back muscles and abdominals stop working properly and they begin to weaken. This weakening leads to more problems. Then, when you something like walk around an agility trial all day, at the end of the day every muscle in your body hurts! This is because your postural muscles are weak.
Because the core muscles and the postural muscles are so important, they will be areas that we focus on throughout the course. They are the foundation for all other types of activity.
This beauty is working her core on a series of Infinity's. She has a knee injury (cranial cruciate injury) but it has been recommended NOT to have surgery but go with a conservative approach. Her owner would like to get her back to playing with the other dogs in her house as well as field work. By working her core, we are assisting with the strength return on her legs in addition to strengthening her stomach, hips, and lower back. The actvitiy will help her recover and get back to normal. She is wearing a harness and I highly recommend wearing a type of harness when working the dogs for safety reasons. There are many good harnesses and we can discuss these in our discussions.
As we move along through the course, we will progress:
Balance and Propriocpetion
Balance and proprioceptive exercises are something a dog should work on regardless if they are just beginning to walk after an injury or arthritis, or if they are competing at a 'professional' level of competition. Balance and proprioception is involved in every part of a dogs' life. When a dog wakes up in the morning, stretches and begins to move, their body is balancing and adjusting their movement. A dog involved in a sport allows a complex coordination of movements between the parts of the body.
The conscious part of the exercises are the balance part. A dog needs to actively decide to turn left or right on a hike or on an agilty course. The unconsious component is called proprioception and this involves more of the involuntary movements. For example, a dog will 'catch' themselves from slipping on the agility course, or help themselves as they go over a jump and land. Both of these components should be worked on throughout the dogs' lives.
Typically, when we look at training specificity, gains will be derived from specific exercises. For example, training jumping and contacts for agility is sports specific. Bite work for IPO is sports specific. Plyometrics is advantageous for both jumping and strength. Recent studies have demonstrated that specific training may not asssit witht eh development in proprioception. (www.sportsinjurybulletin.com/archive/strength-training-injuries.html) One paper indicated that fast twitch fibers may disrupt the prorpioceptive ability. Fast twictch exercises include sprinting drills, running, quick turns, etc. Fast twictch fibers are less adept at controlling muscle tension compared to slow twitch fibers. It is suggested that balance type exercises performed at slow paces to enhance proprioception. As we have been discussing throughout the class, slow and core are necessary for optimal function. The postural stabilizers will assist with enahanced movement control.
It has also been demonstrated that balance exercises will help the dog and canine athlete produce power and assist in the reduction of injury. The importance of balance exercises are key in the life of a dog. And at first glance, balance exercises can seem 'boring' compared to many of the other exercises. However, they may be advanced to varying degrees and also to be incorporated into every day life.
Balance exercises may be started with a simple ten second stand on all fours. And as we have learned, this may be difficult for some dogs. To advance, we can ask the dog to stand on an uneven surface for as long as possible. I generally attempt to start with ten seconds and progress. The GSD is standing on an wobble board on top of an unstable surface during part of his workout. There are many variations here as he moves through a series of equipment.
This GSD is standing on a large infinity to work on his balance.
Both of these GSDs are competitive in a variety of sports.
Steps in static balance:
1. Standing on a stable surface on all fours for as long as possible without a change in posture
2. Standing on an unstable surface on all fours for as long as possible without a change in posture
c. Wobble board
d. Floating boat dock
f. Unsteady bridge
3. Standing on an unstable surface with head movements - up, down, side to side
4. Picking up one leg at a time on an unstable surface
5. Standing on the flat with eyes partially covered, one eye covered, and slight impairment in vision. The below photos are of a dog with a thunder cap on standing on the Infinity. The dog's head is in a variety of positions.
5. Balancing on thin surfaces - you can use a variety of objects inclusive of a dog walk, plank or something in the environment to assist with walking on thin surfaces. The surfaces may be varied from stable to unstable. Figure eights and weaves may also be performed to assist with balance. The weaving may be performed at a variety of speeds.
Steps in dynamic balance:
1. Slow progression up and down an unstable object
2. Sit to stand to down on an unstable object
This GSD is working on backing up on Infinities. He hops with his excitement!
3. Resisted standing on an uneven surface
4. Walking on an uneven surface such as sand, grass or snow. The slower the better with these movements
5. Stepping over cavalettis slowly and with control to encouarge balance and proprioception. This may be enhanced with unstable surfaces
6. Walking backwards over objects
A SAMPLING OF WHAT PRIOR STUDENTS HAVE SAID ABOUT THIS COURSE ...
I have taken a few K9 conditioning classes in the past. In hindsight they felt like working on tons of tricks and I never developed a true routine for my dogs. Deb taught us a great deal in her first class. "Simple" exercises that WORK for all dogs (mine are from 22 months to nearly 10 years) and about canine anatomy! A MUST class for every dog owner!!!
Debbie did a phenomenal job of addressing a wide variety of topics over the six weeks, from puppy conditioning to musculoskeletal support of the geriatric dog. She supported a very lively discussion forum and gave very detailed specific attention to each of her students. Looking forward to the 2nd half of this class !!! Ana C.
This was Deb's first course teaching with the Academy, and I for one am so grateful to her for the way she presented it, and for her feedback to students. And grateful to Denise for recruiting her. Conditioning is something we all should be paying more attention to, I think, and Deb's explanations, demonstrations and encouragement were just what I for one needed. Thank you Barb Duke with the Border Collies in Tasmania, Australia.
The k9 conditioning class has been fabulous! i'm thrilled to see a second class offered :)
Exceeded my expectations-I did not expect to learn as much as I did and get as many great ideas for conditioning all my dogs. The other professional I have worked with gives much more complicated exercises, I just couldn't keep up with my performance dog, let alone work on my senior dogs.
I really like the combination of education about structure and concepts of conditioning, as well as the actual exercises. Also appreciate the variety of exercises, and the number that can be done just as part of our daily "out and about" routine.
Great lectures! Wow! I got so much great information-and I am not new to k9 conditioning. I think Debbie stands out in that her lectures and exercises are not complicated, they are easy to understand and very easy to implement even with multiple dogs with multiple issues. I liked the fact that Debbie is willing to state her opinion even if it goes against current popular thinking. I. e older dogs should not be sore and painful as a matter of old age. Also the rest periods for performance dogs.