Getting Fit To Start Dog Agility
Yes, dog agility is super exercise for your dog especially if you have room or ability to practice more than once a week. However, if you and your dog are new to agility you will want to start an exercise regimen that will get you both ready for the physical and mental work that is awaiting you. Your dog will need a good diet, good health and a safe weight to start in dog agility.
A good diet really is the corner stone as it will directly impact your dog’s health and weight. You need to feed a quality dog food that contains the correct balance of digestible protein and fat as well as the proper balance of vitamins and minerals. While some will chose to take on a raw diet there are many great processed foods that will keep your dog healthy and happy as well. Either way you will want to work closely with your vet to determine what is best for your dog’s breed, activity level and current weight. Be sure to factor in quality treats for training that you will be feeding if your dog is food motivated. Again, you can either buy packaged treats or use your own such as cooked chicken, liver, cheese or homemade dog biscuits.
When you have a diet plan set up, you will want to start getting your team into a daily exercise routine to rid any harmful excess weight, build muscle and endurance and stimulate the mind. Just having your dogs in a large yard is not sufficient exercise to prepare for a dog agility career. If you dog spends many hours home alone you can get good mental stimulation with a wide variety of doggie board games. It has been said that 10 minutes of mental games is the same as 30 minutes of physical games. Plus, mental games work well on inclement weather days. Many activities like nose work and treibball use both physical and mental components. However, your dog does need to exercise the muscles as well.
If your dog is overweight, you will want to work with your vet on an exercise regimen to start with so you not only ensure your dog is getting the right amount of work to lose weight, but to also guard against over working them. Your dog’s breed, age, daily stress and metabolism will play a big part in what kind of exercise you will need to do. Older dogs and younger dogs as well as overweight dogs will do best with low impact, lower intensity work outs while high energy dogs like terriers and herding breeds may do better with more intense workouts like jogging or chasing toys. But if you do have a high drive dog you must be careful not to over exert them. Short spurts of hard exercise without rest periods like chasing Frisbees can problems by stressing the joints, ligaments and even stress from too much adrenaline. It is especially dangerous to young dogs with developing joints causing permanent damage such as hip and elbow displasia.
The type of exercise that will do both dog and handler loads of good despite age, breed and weight is sustained smooth movement that gets the dog’s heart pumping faster. Hiking and brisk walks are great examples with the speed and length of time being dictated by the dog. During this kind of continuous exercise, good hormones and endorphins are released that help offset stress hormones. On average, this takes place during a minimum session of 15 minutes or more. You will need to adjust the intensity of the work to a point where your dog can maintain exercise for that amount of time. As you and your dog become accustomed to this routine you can increase either the time or the intensity in small steps. At this point you will also want to add variety to your routine. Maybe adding some running, harder hikes, swimming or play time with other dogs.
Be sure to take it slow, make sure your dog is on a balanced diet, and work with your veterinarian if your dog is obese or has special physical needs. Soon you will both be ready to take on all the fun that dog agility has to offer while staying healthy and avoiding injury or illness.