Exercise…It does a body good.
National Canine Fitness Month is just behind us, but that doesn’t mean we only focus on this topic for one month out of the year. Just like humans–– animals need exercise, and I want to explore the topic of agility training as an option to keep your dog in optimal shape! Agility exercises can be done by any dog, from a Rotty (Rottweiler) to a Chihuahua. The activities in an agility course aren’t tailored to any specific breed, though working-class breeds like Rottweilers, German Shepherds and Huskies may be the best candidates because they are bred to work. But, it’s really the dog’s mental focus that determines how successful they will be.
Agility exercises benefit overall heart health and builds the cardiovascular system. This type of exercise helps brain function and cognitive behavior due to the nature of the obstacles where they must go over, under and around–– with tunnels, weave poles, teeter-totters, hurdles and more. All the movement and thinking done helps build a well-balanced dog–– physical and mentally.
Aside from just exercising for fun and healthy living, dogs can compete. First, you should research special training in your area or find a club to join if––after having a conversation with your dog–– you decide this is a life goal they wish to accomplish 😊 Remember, repetition is the key to learning. So, I recommend starting dogs off at an early age. The earlier you start, the better off they will be because you can see if they have what it takes–– and you’re training the dog to know their purpose. Don’t be upset or discouraged if your dog isn’t the best candidate for competitions. Each dog has a calling and a purpose. Enjoy the journey of discovering what their natural talent is!
With any sport, there are always precautions. To be confident your dog is a good candidate for agility exercises I recommend they have an annual physical exam to evaluate critical areas, including the heart. If it’s determined they have a heart condition, for example, I wouldn’t suggest they compete or participate in these exercises. Another thing you want to be cautious about is the animal’s bone structure. Having a properly developed bone structure means there are no joint issues. You may want to reconsider agility exercises if there are any underlying medical conditions such as a luxated patella or hip dysplacia. This is extremely important because aggravating any preexisting conditions could lead more severe medical conditions such as bone disease or soft heart murmurs.
Dogs are not excluded from injury. While we always want to remain optimistic, some things are unavoidable. One of the main things I see with athletic and hyperactive dogs is cruciate tears, similar to ACL tears. Due to a lot of jumping, dogs can potentially hurt their hip and have fractures depending on how heavy the workload is.
Agility exercises are one way for dogs to maintain good health. But, even if you don’t participate in that sport, some form of exercise is recommended daily. The more your pet exercises, the better their cardiovascular health will be. In the hustle and bustle of life, it may be difficult to engage in these activities as an owner-canine family. But, it helps to schedule at least 3 days per week where exercise is included in the routine.
There are various ways to exercise, and if your dog isn’t involved with some form of physical activity or has poor diet choices, they could potentially be at risk for health ailments including:
- Obesity (It’s one of the main health ailments in dogs–– one that can be prevented.)
- Kidney Disease
- Liver Disease
- Cardiovascular Issues
While no owner wants their pet to endure such medical diagnoses, the key to possibly preventing these ailments is to pair proper exercise with a nutritious diet. As a heads up, be on the lookout for my next blog where I’ll talk more about the power couple, diet and exercise, which complement each other when it comes to having a healthy canine.