Dogs and their handlers are dead serious about preparing for dog competitions. In the world of competitive dog sports, dogs are world-class athletes and the handlers are their capable trainers and coaches. It’s important to prepare for sports competitions by proper dog sports training.
Just like human athletes, these athletic dogs need to prepare weeks in advance so that they are conditioned for the event. From a spectator standpoint, it’s easy to think that it’s all fun and games because the audience is entertained by the idea of dogs competing in sporting events. However, for the dogs and their handlers, it’s an opportunity to form a deeper bond while testing their mettle for competition.
Winning a dog sporting event is all about hard work, physical conditioning, and mental preparation. Of course, there is an element of luck in the equation, but without training and fitness for both dog and handler, the odds will not be on their favor.
Do a Health Check Before a Dog Sports Competition
Before anything else, your dog must undergo a full physical check-up if you are considering signing him up for a sports competition or even a sports class. This is necessary to ensure that your dog is physically fit for a specific dog sporting competition.
Keep in mind that some dogs are not suitable for certain dog sports because of potential health issues.
The physical check-up includes a wellness examination where your dog’s general appearance is examined. The vet will also listen to your dog’s chest and feel areas of his body.
X-rays may be performed to check on his joints and bones. If needed, the vet may ask for a stool sample for fecal examination to check for intestinal parasites.
Physical Conditioning for Athletic Dogs
Conditioning starts the moment you decide that you and your dog will join a dog sporting competition. Part of dog physical conditioning is planning a concentrated training regimen that focuses on fitness. It’s important that both dog and handlers are physically fit so that they can perform well in the competition.
The training must be done well in advance so that certain issues can be addressed. For instance, if your dog is overweight or suffering from a minor injury, you still have enough time to get your dog in shape and treat the injury.
Dogs that compete in agility, obedience, rally, hunting trials, and conformation events must be in tip-top shape to have a chance at the prize.
Stretching, running, walking, and trick training are some of the activities that your dog can do to keep him in shape. A well-conditioned canine is less likely to be injured. It’s important to get the dog into a training routine. Avoid having your dog lounge around for days and then play hard a day or two before the event.
Dog Warm-Ups and Cool-Downs for Athletic Dogs
Physical conditioning for your dog involves intentional engagement so that your dog is laser-focused on the activities. The key is to keep your dog active with the right kind of exercise. Before doing any exercise, make sure that your dog gets gentle warm-ups.
Stretching should be done with guidance from a veterinarian to avoid stretching your dog’s limbs too far, causing pain and injury. Other warm-up exercises include crawling, spinning, bowing, and teaching your dog to place his front paws onto a low object.
After a hard run or a strenuous activity, make sure that your dog cools down by walking or trick training. The point of cooling down is to help your dog’s heart rate and breathing to gradually return to normal resting levels. This prevents muscle soreness and regulates blood flow.
Trick training is a fun way for the dog to cool down after a hard activity. Dogs love trick dog training because not only do they learn new tricks, but they are also rewarded. Trick training is a combination of light physical exercise and mental stimulation.
Dog Nutrition for Canine Athletes
Food is what fuels your dog but it’s not just any kind of food; it must be high-quality dog food that will provide him with the necessary nutrients to keep him in tip-top shape. Dogs have different nutritional needs depending on their breed and condition.
Based on the results of your dog’s physical check-up, your vet can recommend the right diet and calorific requirement for your dog. The vet will take into account the activities of your dog.
Typically, at the start of the season, handlers use a high-grade performance dog food that’s high in protein and fat. Dog food with high fat content helps your dog maintain his energy level so that he has enough to fuel him throughout the competition. In between training, your dog can have regular maintenance food.
Identify the Demands of the Dog Sports
There are a lot of dog sports and sports competitions that your dog can join all throughout the year. Each of these sports requires a certain skill or ability. It could be speed, agility, stamina, strength, resilience, or obedience.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) lists some of the dog sports that your dog can participate in:
- Earthdog tests
- Field Events
Each of these events has some unique requirements and nuances. Some events require speedier dogs, while others focus on the ability to hunt and flush game. Whatever it is that you have chosen, make sure that your dog can meet the demands of the sports. But more importantly, it’s something you and your dog love to do, win or lose.