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5 A Week: Essential Exercises for Every Dog

Exercie with your Dog 5 Days a week using Cardio, strength, Flexiblity, balance, skills and drillsAs a former college basketball player of course I enjoy watching the games. I imagine – what if these basketball players never spent time in the weight room increasing strength? What if those same athletes avoided cardio exercise? Well, none of them would be competing at this level.

Many owners and handlers, just like human athletes spend time practicing skills and drills – which are very important, but then they forget to integrate a solid conditioning program to back it up.  The result is a dog that can perform all the drills on cue, but no stamina to finish; or worse a dog that compensates trying to finish (high drive) and becomes injured. This rule holds true for performance dogs and weekend warrior companion pets.


*Download PDF of Exercise Infographic

The Integrated Training Program Formula

Integrated Training utilizes the RIGHT AMOUNT and RIGHT COMBINATION of strength, cardio, balance, flexibility and mental (skills and drills) training for the type of activity or activities that will be performed. It takes into account a strong foundation, plateaus and levels of desired outcome.

The formula varies from dog to dog (just as it does for people) and it is designed to keep your dog in top condition while minimizing injury. It should also be noted that the program will need to change and alternate, based on long-term and short-term goals. Sounds confusing…? Well this is where a skilled and educated canine professional can help direct your efforts – and it is not just for performance dogs – the family pet can benefit too.

1) Strength Training or Resistance Training (Anaerobic)
Strength-resistance training trains your dog’s muscles against an opposing force. It is used to increase the strength and size of the skeletal muscles. The goal of strength-resistance training is to gradually and progressively challenge the musculoskeletal system so it gets stronger. You can use gravity and body weight to develop strength, as well as tools like weighted vests and elastic bands.  Proper form is paramount when implementing a strength program.

2) Cardio Endurance Training (Aerobic)
Training the aerobic system and increasing calorie expenditure is the purpose of a good Cardio program. Depending on your goal the period of time for this type of training may vary. One of the best exercises for building endurance and overall skeletal muscle conditioning is a 20 minute extended trot.  If this is performed regularly – 3-5 times a week – seek a surface that is easier on the joints. Avoid concrete and hard surfaces whenever possible. A land treadmill designed for a dog can be a good tool to use to establish consistency in speed and gait. Ensure you have a deck length that accommodates your dogs stride. Too short and you risk injury. It will also help you become more skilled at watching your dogs form and movement. Just remember an outdoor jaunt is also important so mix in road work with the dog treadmill for optimal results.

3) Balance
Balance training can not only help with strengthening the postural muscles and proprioception (body awareness). This type of training can help dogs develop more coordinated movements that can help prevent injury. There are a variety of balance training tools that can be used to assist owners with balance. The important thing is to target all areas of the body – front limbs, hind limbs, core stabilizer muscles. Mix it up and keep it interesting with a variety of balance platforms.

4) Flexibility Exercises
Warming up and cooling down with exercises that are appropriate for the sports or activities that we perform is encouraged by many trainers to help reduce injury. The key is to select the right type of stretching exercises based on the activity that your dog is going to do. Don’t over stretch cold muscles and save the good massage stretch for after the workout as part of a cool down process.

5) Mental Exercises
Mental exercises are great for engaging your dog’s brain and are often called skill and drill training. Adding mental exercises to your canine conditioning program can help redirect focus and attention. Challenging the brain to problem-solve also can help you take your conditioning program to another level that helps your dog become more bonded with you whether in the ring, on an agility course or out on the trail.

Working with professional Canine Conditioning Coaches that understand how to create an Integrated Training Program formula can help your dog perform for life or the ring while minimizing the risk of injury and over training.

Krista Wickens_PetZen Products_DogTreadAbout the Author: Krista Wickens is an athlete, lifestyle fitness advocate, author, speaker, inventor, and co-founder of PetZen Products, a manufacturing and design company dedicated to designing canine fitness products and programs under the DogTread brand. President of BallDynamics a  company dedicated to the design of innovative products  for humans and canine Fitness. She is also the co-author and producer of the first Treading for Dogs DVD and 30-day Dog Treadmill Training Program. As a former fitness product manager, Krista created best-selling products and programs used by some of the biggest names in Human Fitness, including iconic brands like Reebok, Gold’s Gym and NordicTrack. Krista’s love and understanding of animals, particularly dogs, started on a Montana Cattle Ranch where she was raised. She trained her first dog, Bear, at the age of 7. Her unique understanding of the mechanics of fitness and canine experiences have led her on a mission dedicated to helping develop healthy and beneficial relationships for dogs and their humans.





One response to “5 A Week: Essential Exercises for Every Dog”

  1. Great post! We like to mix it up too. We may be a little light on the strength/resistance training according to your info graphic. We have a Fit Paws wobble board like the one you have pictured but I don’t think we do anything that would count as strength training on it. We do lots of everything else!
    Diane and Rocco