Conditioning Program for Sprint Activities


Examples: retriever trials, agility, fly ball, dock jumping. Sprint activities to limit production of lactic acid, limit wear and tear on ligaments, joints, and muscle structures.

  1. Conditioning training should resemble the actual sport in terms of expenditure requirements, limb and body movements required, and duration of the event.

Goal: Conditioning is used to promote increased endurance, strength, muscle adaption and speed, aerobic capacity and energy utilization by cells. Conditioning also helps to strengthen and increase flexibility of joints ligament and bones, provided there are no orthopedic or nervous system injuries.

Warning: Avoid too much too soon! It takes 3 weeks minimum to activate the body's enzyme systems and build up the body's ability to use energy reserves. It takes several months to develop the body to hard exercise stress. For example; a walking program is recommended prior to starting exercise programs to allow the bones, joints and muscles to slowly adapt to mild exercise before stressing it. If sprint training is started before the basic adaptive enzyme changes have begun and when the body bone, ligament and tendon structures have not had a chance to adapt to stress, the program may lead to muscle overuse, stressed bone ligament and tendon attachments, muscle tears, early loss of interest, increased soreness and failure of the proposed conditioning program.

Do: Take the dog's age into consideration: Allow for adequate rest. Young dogs are exuberant but may over do an activity and get injured more easily as a result. Growth plates are still closing until 14 months of age. Older dogs need more time to allow their body to recuperate. Take into account any prior areas of injuries or weakness, age factors, weight/status considerations, medications that may affect performance.

Frequency and progression. Carefully monitor and assess the dog for signs of disinterest, avoidance, or body soreness before stepping up a program. If the dog is not coping well, give longer periods of rest between work sessions, and/ or lessen the work load demands. If the dog is otherwise healthy, the enzymes and energy pathways can reach a peak in 3 weeks. If the dog is healing from a prior injury, has weight issues, other metabolic concerns it may take several more weeks.

Suggested types of activities for sprint athletes: Your dog should be able to do a steady trot for 30 minutes and not show signs of over exertion before attempting to step up to a sprint. Alternate activities on different days.

  1. Road with a bike or Quad at a slow easy trot and add in short bursts of maximum running speed for 1 minute intervals separated by 4-5 minute intervals. Early in the training have longer rest periods between the maximum sprint time. You will need to gauge the speed individually for your dog based on their individual ability. Try to work up to 5-6 sprints over 3-4 weeks. If your dog is in tip top shape and the weather is cool enough your may increase the sprint time by another 1-2 minutes. Running near water and allowing them to cool off is helpful. Avoid rocky trails. It is best to find a low cut field without brush or other hazards to run in. Try to do this early in the morning or during cool temperatures.
  2. Run up flights of stairs and walk down, or run up steep hills such as mountain bike sand trails and walk down. Throw a ball or a retrieving dummy up the stairs/hill to encourage running upward. On longer hills drop a dummy or toy the dog really likes walk them to the bottom of the hill and release them to run up the hill to get it. Repeat 4-6 times. If they loose interest it is no longer effective and move on to something else.
  3. Running with resistance at an easy pace (meaning at a speed they could comfortably run without resistance for a longer period of time but now we are increasing difficulty by adding resistance):running in sand, along the ocean or big lakes in the waves, running against the flow in a stream with a soft bottom (be careful of rocks and muck- it is better to have them swim against a current and not touch bottom if the bottom is questionable), for dogs who are familiar with a roading harness try adding a chain or sand bag to drag ( you can walk a dog on a leash while wearing a weight harness or dragging a weight also but do not do this if the dog has had sore back issues). Start for short periods of time and give walking or trotting breaks without resistance in between. Work up to 25 minutes of activity with 3 1-2 minute breaks when needed in that time. Give a short warm-up of 3-4 minutes of activity to warm the body before asking for heavy resistance and give a walk afterwards.
  4. Swimming behind a boat in a pond while encouraging the dog to catch you or tossing a retrieving dummy and having them swim it to you in the boat. Be cautious of areas where fishing activity may leave fishing lines or hooks around to catch the dog. It is safer to do this activity while paddling or rowing a boat to avoid any propeller injuries.
  5. Agility and speed working the body in multiple directions: wide weave poles, figure eight movements, weight shifting from side to side trotting on a leash over low poles, fast sit to stands. Use a large cushion or trampoline to stand the dog on while encouraging side to side weight shifts either standing or sitting to get a treat or object they like. This is best done after they have had some other activity such as a run or swim. We are building the tendon and ligament attachments and don't want to overly stress these structures when the body is tense or cold.
  6. Core strengthening and spinal flexibility: Use an exercise ball a few inches taller than the top line of the dog to drape the dog over while you support them from behind. Rock the ball in all directions and shift the dog's weight from the side to side and front to rear. A "peanut" Physioroll can be used for this or just a large exercise ball available in sporting goods stores. This is relaxing the dog is accustomed to it and is meant to be done in a quiet environment. It is a nice cool down after any activity. Massage the back using a rolling pin: gently roll the back muscles with a rolling pin (if your dog has bones protruding you may have to wrap a pad on the rolling pin for comfort). This is nice for lumbar muscle soreness. There are many devices made in the human sporting market using this same technique that you could try. This type of massage is good for myofascial release after resistance training or whenever the back shows tension (put firm pressure with your hand on the back muscle and feel for heat, tension or quivering of the muscles). This again is very relaxing to the dog. A device or rolling pin is helpful for people who have arthritis or are not able to apply much pressure to massage deep muscles.

Rogue Valley Veterinary Hospital & K-9 Sports Med PH: 616.863.9390 www.roguevalleyvet.com