Reaching optimum fitness for the season may be a worry for some handlers to achieve or you may own a dog that not only has a natural ability to hold and maintain throughout the season. There are several factors that affect a dog’s fitness and their ability to maintain this but as a handler we can influence this greatly. Let us start with age, one of the primary factors that affect many things in your dogs life; an eighteen month old Labrador who is getting fit for their first full season may need longer to reach peak fitness than a ‘seasoned’ 4 year old who has experienced the fattening cycle twice over. Second to this it is important to graduate your training with young dogs, even more so in larger working breeds whose skeletal system reach full maturity between 14-18 months old. Essentially, look at the dog in front of you, if you are getting several dogs fit it would be sensible to tweak the program of a ‘first timer’ as well as an experienced hand who you may have noticed some signs of ageing this past year.
Specific, what is the task at hand? Do you have a Lurcher whose sprint speed needs improvement or a Spaniel’s whose afternoon energy does not quite match what he sprints out with first thing? Consider if what you are training for is in fact a fitness principle or a training principle because one may influence the other- if technique is not quite right or vise versa, you may solve your problem by correctly identifying exactly what needs to be improved; this may need the assistance of a trainer which can give you valuable insight to your dog’s performance. With specificity being considered, it is also important to add variety to our training regime, cross training and variety often go hand in hand, there are lots of different canine sports and activities that have very useful elements in for our working dogs.
Little and often on a gradual incline of intensity is the ideal fitness direction, avoid encouraging your dog to become a ‘weekend warrior’ that does the bare minimal exercise Monday to Friday and exerts themselves excessively of a weekend, as this is likely to cause injury as well as not being optimal for fitness. Planning well ahead of schedule is sensible, considering how fit your dog has been kept over the off-season, for example look at increasing intensity and adding some simulated activity in 8 weeks prior to the start of the season. The intensity of activity done during an off season will influence this ‘pre-season’ period on a sliding scale of preparation required.
A word on health, physical and mental wellbeing is prioritised in human athletes so it should be no different in our canine ones, awareness of signs of ill-physical health is useful such as fever, discomfort and being ‘off’ their normal personalities. A six-monthly health check with your vet is a good idea which can help with early identification of any problems. Ensuring your dog’s dietary needs are met year-round is essential, not only to satisfy energy requirements on the field but also to ensure muscle can be built and repaired efficiently. This can only be done having provided a quality, protein quality rich diet which meets the needs of working dogs. Chudleys has been at the forefront of fueling working dogs for many years now and provides an extensive range of products to suit every dog’s needs both through every life stage but also through every seasonal change to ensure they maintain optimum condition year-round. A prime example of how Chudleys can ‘bridge the gap’ through the seasons’ energy requirements is by feeding Chudleys Classic through the summer or off-season and transitioning on to Working Crunch when it comes to increasing workload and really needing that extra energy and protein for peak performance. Take a look at our full range to see how your dog can benefit!