A conditioning plan should include “skill training”, strength training, and endurance exercises. Zink defines skill training as “training the specific skills that are required in competition.” This is what most of us think of as dog training and it’s probably 99% of our focus. The problem is that training does little to prepare the dog for physical performance! Sure, it develops the muscles used in specific movements, but usually dog training is more about conditioning the mind than the body. That’s where strength training and endurance exercises come in. Just like a well-balanced human athlete, the dog who practices both strength and endurance exercises will have power, speed, and stamina. He’ll also be less prone to injury (more important for sports like agility or flyball).
All good fitness programs account for intensity, duration, and frequency. As Wally’s personal trainer I have to balance these three factors, so an intense workout should be short and include lots of breaks. Frequency depends on how soon he needs to be ready, similar to horse trainers or marathon runners preparing for a big event: you want to peak on game day. Zink goes on to discuss these factors in relation to skill training, but all I care about right now is the conditioning aspect.
The fastest way to improve fitness is with interval training. People do this by sprinting hard for 15sec followed by jogging at a moderate pace for 45sec, repeating 10 times. Or you might jump on the rowing machine for 1min before you kit the squat rack for a set of squats. Basically it’s a short, intense burst of energy followed by a moderate, longer “recovery” period. Notice that you are never truly resting. Wally wouldn’t be sprinting since he’s a puppy; instead he would be at a relaxed lope.
Quickly moving an object over a distance (the object can be the dog)
Fetching weighted objects
Running and and out of water
Pulling a sled
A-frame (works rear)
Weaves (works back and neck)
Maintaining a moderate pace for 20min on land or 10min in water
Roadwork (he trots alongside while you jog, bike, skate, etc; treadmill): include hillwork
Balance & Coordination
Standing on balance discs (back legs, front legs, front on one disc & back on a second disc)
Standing on BOSU balls (same moves as balance discs)
Stand on peanut ball (all four legs)
Stand on four independent pods (like mini-BOSU, one per foot)
Up Next… Wally’s Workout!