Cross Training Canine Fitness Components
When an exercise program includes each of these components, all systems of the body are trained to work at optimal levels, preventing compensation in one area that may lead to injury.
Posture, Balance & Core Stability
Core stability is defined by having the stabilizer strength to maintain equilibrium and postural control of the spine, pelvis, and scapula during both static and dynamic exercise without compensatory movement that may lead to pain or injury.
Most dogs (like humans) have “lazy” posture – which can either cause or be caused by injuries or imbalances within the body.
Stability training not only strengthens your dog’s core muscles, but also the stabilizer muscles surrounding the other joints throughout the body such as the carpal joints, elbow joints, stifle joints, tarsal joints and so on, reducing the risk of injury in these areas as well.
Canine Strength Training
Canine strength training can both correct and prevent muscular imbalances by integrating the bodily systems to move optimally with appropriate weight distribution.
Muscular imbalances involve the affected muscle(s) performing roles outside of their normal physiological function and thereby placing abnormal forces throughout the body. This can increase a dog’s risk of injuries.
Strength training not only improves the strength of the muscles, but also the tendons, ligaments and bones as well – helping to hold the body in proper alignment and prevent injury.
Strength training can also prevent ‘slip & fall’ type injuries by training the dog’s body how to quickly react to external forces that may otherwise predispose the dog’s muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints to strain/sprain, fractures, and other types of injuries.
By following the SAID principle, strength training can improve overall function in daily life, and/or enhance athletic performance.
Body awareness in canine fitness refers to a dog’s conscious and subconscious perception of their body’s position, movement, and sensations during physical activities.
Including safe stretches at the appropriate times helps to prevent stiffness, muscle knots and soreness (dogs get sore muscles too!).
Cardiovascular Exercise increases the efficiency of the heart and lungs, while improving blood flow throughout the body. It is also a great way to release pent up energy while helping your dog maintain a healthy bodyweight.
Although cardiovascular training has plenty of benefits, it is highly recommended that each dog (and human) participates in a well rounded cross training program that goes beyond simply walking or running alone.
Strengthening and stabilizing the muscles throughout the body that are underused/weak (including “the core”) while stretching the muscles that are overused/tight will decrease muscular imbalances while reducing the risk of injuries.
Most successful *human* runners follow a well designed cross training program in order to improve performance and decrease the likelihood of overtraining/injuries. There is no reason to think that our canine athletes should be any different!
Reactive/Power training isn’t a component I include in all fitness programs, but it’s definitely important for our canine athletes and it would be unrealistic to think that most pet dogs don’t perform reactive/power exercises in their daily lives too!
Three-Dimensional Movement Efficiency
We live in a three-dimensional world therefore a well designed exercise program should be correctly balanced in all 3 anatomical planes of movement in order to reduce the risk of injuries and improve performance.
The 3 Anatomical Planes of Movement for Quadrupeds (Canines & Felines) include:
- The Median Plane which cuts through the spine and divides the body into left & right halves. This includes movements that involve joint flexion & extension; including forwards, backwards, up, and down movements.
Exercise examples include: Sit to Stands, Back Up, Jumping
- The Dorsal Plane which cuts through the spine, dividing the body into “belly & back” sections.
For dogs this is top & bottom halves, and includes movements that involve lateral bending through the spine, as well as internal & external rotation of the limbs.
Exercise examples include: Spin/Circle, Weaves, Handler weight shifting towards the midline
- The Transverse Plane which transects the spine in half. For dogs this is front & back halves, and includes movements that involve rotation through the spine, as well as limb abduction and adduction.
Exercise examples include: Sidestepping, Pivots, Limb lift into abduction
Please note: The above is in reference to quadrupeds such as canines & felines. The planes of movement and their corresponding actions are slightly different in humans who are bipeds and stand upright.
All too often exercise routines lack the correct balance of three-dimensional movements, and this imbalance may increase the likelihood of injury, while also hindering sport performance.
A qualified trainer understands the importance of building three-dimensional movement efficiency in all anatomical planes to keep the body working as a stable and functional whole.
Dog Massage & Canine Bodywork
Incorporating dog massage and canine bodywork into your dog’s routine offers numerous benefits. Massage helps to decrease muscular tension, stiffness, and soreness, improves range of motion, increases blood circulation, and promotes overall posture, structure, and alignment. Massage also aids in restoring normal movement patterns, improving performance, and reducing recovery time. Additionally, consent-based massage can enhance tolerance to touch and cooperative care skills.