Posted in the BCSA Borderlines Magazine

We hear stories about a handler’s dedication to their sport, the hours upon hours of practice, and the conditioning and training for them and their dogs. We are led to believe that they not only eat, drink, and sleep their sport, but also their sport is on their mind every waking minute. This leads us to believe that any minute not participating, practicing, or thinking about the sport is time that is wasted. Additionally, we are told that our more devoted competitors are passing us up. Thus, when we take a break from training we are lead to believe that it is a lack of commitment on our part. But is it really?

Does Your Dog need Breaks from his regular activity and training?

Participating in just one type of exercise over and over can be physically and mentally harmful to your dog and to you. This type of constant exercise can wear and strain both you and your dog’s muscles. Worse yet it can enhance the risk of major injuries or worse “burn-out”. Cross-training and participating in other dog sports can often eliminates these issues

Have you considered cross-training with your dog? This simply means engaging him in a variety of different activities to ensure that all his muscle groups get worked. It’s a great way to increase his fitness while reducing the risk of injury.

Dogs, like humans, become conditioned to the same exercise routines. With cross-training, you can keep both you and your dog physically and mentally engaged by incorporating different activities into his fitness routine.

Sometimes our own inactivity can limit our imagination to what we can do with our dogs. However, with some imagination, you can find many types of cross-training exercises.

Here are a few simple suggestions.

• Swimming. A great low impact exercise to keep you and your dog physically fit.

• Balance Ball or disk. This impact-free workout will improve your dog’s core strength, balance and increase his range of motion. It also helps improve your core strength, balance and range of motion.

• Core and Balance Work. There are loads of conditioning drills that are low impact yet very effective for overall conditioning for your dog. Sit up and beg is a great example.

• Use a dog pack when going on walks. Adding light weight to a dog’s backpack is a great way to intensify your dog’s strengthening workout.

• Stairs. Climbing stairs is a great way to work your dog’s leg, shoulder, hip and lower back muscles. Additionally, stair climbing helps your dog with coordination and agility. Have you ever thought of having your dog go up the stairs backward?

• Hike. Wooded or beach areas provide a natural cross-training environment for both you and your dog.

• Different dog sports. There are many other dog sports available that you and your dog can enjoy. Some of these actives include Obedience, Agility, Nose Work or Tracking, Barn hunt, etc…

Be sure your dog always has a proper warm up and cool down before and after exercising. Check with your veterinarian before starting any new exercise regime for your dog.

Here are a few really great “dog” items I use in everyday life and in training.
Click on the link or image and it will take you to affiliate Amazon.

DebbyQ’s Picks

Mental Breaks

When it comes to dog training it seems that less is more. Research has shown that dogs learn faster when given regular mental breaks during training.

The following training ideas can help you get more out of your training sessions AND give your dog a much needed mental break.

Set aside a specific training time. A few minutes of quality time can go far.

Take brief breaks if you are working through a problem. If you are working through a hard scenario with your dog, give him play breaks throughout the session to help relieve stress and keep him motivated to train.

Don’t OVER train. When your dog does well, owners are often tempted to push their dog to do more. Resist the temptation and always end your session with your dog wanting more.

Use everyday life situations to get in extra training. Use time you are with your dog to get in some extra training. Sit stays at doors, while vacuuming or watering plants. Recall practice when your dog is in the back yard chasing that squirrel or playing with another dog. Use your imagination!

Give play breaks. Give your dog a chance to blow off some steam when he has been working hard. Let him just be a dog so play tug with him, have him chase a ball, etc.

Don’t work when frustrated. There are times when dogs struggle with a new skill. It can become frustrating when your dog just isn’t catching on. If this happens, or you’re just having a bad day – take a break for yourself. Go get a drink of water, look at the mail, etc. and come back when your head is clear. Your dog will appreciate the break and the skill will be there when you are in the proper frame of mind to train.

When training your dog keep in mind his mental and physical state. Give the two of you breaks to prevent burn-out and injuries. Try something new that looks interesting and fun. In other words enjoy being with your dog and “enjoy the journey”.

Do you have a training question?  AskDebbyQ