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Conditioning Your Dog Like a Champion
Preparing for this year’s Masters Obedience Championship at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show reminded me that an important part of ensuring Heart (my Labrador Retriever) is ready to compete at the highest level is her fitness and conditioning. All of our dogs are athletes, whether they are showing at Westminster or are our beloved pets. Because of this, they need the best exercise, mental stimulation, and nutrition we can provide.
For exercise, Heart’s routine includes walks, hikes, strength training, and stretching. Our long walks and hikes not only provide great exercise, but also give Heart a chance to get out in the world and see the sights and smell the smells.
*Remember, when your dog gets ample exercise, she’ll be better behaved at home.
Heart thinks that our strength exercises are just fun tricks which earn her treats. She can’t wait to work out by standing on her exercise equipment and twisting and turning. All of these wonderful games that we play together are perfect for rainy or snowy days when we can’t get outside for a run. We’re careful to do our stretching too. There’s nothing like a good play to loosen up before we train.
Heart has great professionals as part of her team. She visits the canine chiropractor and doggy physical therapist regularly, just to ensure that she’s in peak condition. She has a great veterinarian that she visits for her regular checkups and any problems that arise. It’s important to have good relationships with your dog’s medical team before any problems happen. They can also advise you on how to maintain your dog’s optimum health. For example, they can suggest exercise routines and help you monitor your dog’s weight.
Just as we need to be mentally prepared for competition and our everyday life, our dog’s do too.
Heart enjoys doing training exercises every day so that her mind gets a good workout, also. I like to incorporate some simple obedience practices into our daily routine. For example, Heart practices responding to hand signals before each meal. I always advise my dog training students to take advantage of mealtimes to get in a little training every day. Something as simple as making your dog wait for a few seconds and pay attention to you before you put down her bowl can kick start your training program.
Diet and nutrition are another critical component. Heart’s perfect weight and sleek shiny coat are evidence that her food works well for her. With so many options when it comes to dog food, it can take a bit of trial and error to find the best food for your pet. Start by consulting your vet for recommendations. Be sure not to overfeed and don’t forget to factor in any treats that your dog is getting during training and exercise sessions! If your dog has any symptoms of allergies, finding the right food is particularly important.
Remember that keeping your dog in peak condition with exercise, training, and nutrition will help her be a better furry family member and can give a huge boost in reaching whatever goals you set. Whether you aspire to have the next Masters Obedience Champion or the best family companion ever, preparation and attention to your dog’s physical and mental conditioning will help create a friend you can be proud of forever!
Blog post submitted by Linda S. Brennan,
Owner and Handler of the 2018 Masters Obedience Champion,
Heart (OTCH Rhumbline’s Once In A Blue Moon UDX6 OGM BN GN VER RE JH ACT1)