Get dog-fit for spring

Some time ago we featured a blog by Rhona Warnock warning about “weekend warrior syndrome”. I was reminded of her piece when I started to think about getting out for some long walks with my dogs after seeing the first glimmers of Spring recently after what seems like a very long and wet winter.

Rhona talked about the risks of suddenly partaking in physical activity that either you or your dog are not use to or prepared for. So before you and your canine companion rush out to enjoy the longer evenings and dare I say it the better weather here are a few tips to help you get fit for Spring.

Build up gently

While it is tempted to get out on a lovely long walk as soon as the better weather arrives it can prove to be a strain for both you and your dog if you have been having shorter or more sedate winter walks. Take the time to build your fitness levels back up by gradually increasing the distance, time and intensity of your walks over a period of a few weeks. It is never good setting out for the day only to find that one of you is out of breath and struggling when you are miles away from the car.

If you and your dog enjoy a sport such as agility or canicross you will need time to rebuild muscle tone and stamina if you have not had the opportunity to train over winter. It is not worth risking an injury that could end your session before it starts just because you rushed into a course before either one of you were fit enough.

Get a physical!

If you or your dog has any aches or pains then it is well worth getting them checked out before throwing yourselves headlong into some kind of exercise you haven’t done for a while. It is always worth seeking a professional opinion how best to prepare for physical activity and if either you or your dog would benefit from a supplement or medication.

Try something different

If you find that you or your dog are getting bored with your “get fit” plan try mixing it up with some other activities. Swimming can be a fantastic form of exercise for both of you to build core strength and fitness, although you might not feel brave enough to swim with your dog at a local beach just yet!

Playing searching and ball or food hunting games with your dog can stimulate the brain while encouraging physical movement. To help encourage coordination in your dog’s movement you can make obstacle courses from low lying branches, poles or other items then work through these together.

Warm up and Cool down

Always take the time to warm up both your dog and yourself before you take part in any physical activity as cold muscles are more prone to injury. You can encourage your dog to gently stretch their body by giving paws, bowing and using a treat to lure them into turning each way then walking a short distance at a suitable pace. Once you have finished your exercise or training session make sure you both take the time to walk around and stretch to give your muscles the chance to cool down. Never just jump in the car and head home, especially if your dog is wet.

Be prepared

Finally when you feel you have both reached a suitable level of fitness make sure you are well prepared for the activity ahead and as Rhona mentions in her blog always make sure you have adequate water and snacks.

If you or your dog do begin to struggle then slow down and stop if necessary, there is no point pushing either one of you past what you are capable of.

Most of all remember take the time to enjoy spending time with your dog whatever you may do together this Spring.

You can read Rhona’s blog here: http://blog.k9active.co.uk/2011/04/weekend-warrior-syndrome.html