In her book, Zink frequently points out that you are your dog’s coach. Just like an NFL coach you have to know your athlete before you can create the optimum fitness plan for him.
#1 Evaluate his structure: is he ectomorphic (slender with long legs, such as a Saluki), mesomorphic (medium size with strong bones and well-muscled, such as a Blue Heeler), or endomorphic (heavyset for their size and builds muscle easily, such as a Clumber)? Does he have proper angulation in front and rear? If not you’ll be dealing with interference, gait oddities, and possibly stress injuries. Does he have any structural faults that should be accounted for, such as cow hocks or a long back? A long back may not be considered a fault in Dachshunds, but it still needs to be accounted for when developing a conditioning program (such as doing back strengthening exercises).
Wally is mesomorphic (hey, me too!), which means he’s suited to a variety of sporting events. He has proper angulation and no structural faults, so I don’t have to build up specific areas to prevent lameness or injury.
#2 What is his current level of fitness? He’s fit if he does not have any excess fat and has good muscle size and tone. Muscles should feel firm and have indentations between muscle bundles. Muscle development should be symmetrical on either side of the body. If it’s not the dog may be favoring one side due to weakness or may just be dominant on the stronger side. Dogs are right or left handed just like people! When your dog takes off into a canter, what front leg does he lead with? That’s his favored side.
Wally is fit, he has Ahnold thighs! He’s also symmetrical, like Amanda Heard and Denzel Washington. I always remember a photo of Denzel that was in one of my high school math books; he was an example of symmetry.
#3 Is he otherwise healthy and sound?
Yes indeed. Wally is wired up, fired up, and ready to go!
#4 Does your dog have any special needs, such as previous injuries, chronic problems like arthritis, or is he very young/very old?
Wally gets special consideration because he’s a puppy. Puppies shouldn’t do serious roadwork or full-height jumping as it can damage the growth plates, and for large breeds growth plates close at 14 months.
I couldn’t find much, but according to one person their Border Collie’s plates closed at 11 months (confirmed by X-ray) and another source said small breed growth plates close at 10 months. Neither of these sources are medical professionals, but it does make a lot of sense that the growth plates close earlier in smaller dogs. At any rate Wally isn’t going to be running miles a day simply because I’m not going to be running miles a day. I’m much too lazy for that. We’ll find something else to build up endurance in a Wally-adjusted manner.