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Building Your Dogs Stamina With Regular Cardio

Building Your Dogs Stamina With Regular Cardio

Understanding Stamina vs. Endurance

Stamina is the strength and energy that allows your pup to sustain physical and mental effort for long periods of time. Increasing your dog’s stamina reduces fatigue and exhaustion, which helps prevent injuries. This is crucial whether you have a competition dog or a family companion.

Now, stamina is often confused with endurance, but they’re quite different. The easiest way to think of it is that stamina defines your dog’s physical and mental ability to perform any kind of exercise again and again throughout the day. For example, your pup has great stamina if it can run at the same pace on the 6th agility run or the 20th flyball run as it did on the first. Your furry friend has impressive stamina if it can hike with you all day, covering 5 times more ground than you, without dragging its feet at the end.

You can think of stamina as the opposite of fatigue. In contrast, endurance is the cardiopulmonary ability to perform a continuous motion over a long period of time. Mushing dogs that run upwards of 100 miles a day in a race and pups that accompany their humans on several-mile runs have good endurance. Endurance activities usually involve a more moderate speed than strength activities but are sustained over a relatively long period.

Strength, Endurance, and Your Pup’s Activities

Although some dog activities require a combination of strength and endurance, most tend to be predominantly one or the other. Strength is most crucial for pups that compete in agility, flyball, FastCAT, obedience, rally, nosework, barn hunt, coursing, dock-diving, hunt tests, and most other dog sports. If your canine companion participates in several runs a day, it also requires stamina.

Stamina is also important for dogs that accompany their people on hikes or just spend an active day with the family. These activities all require strength – the ability to move the body at fast speeds for short distances, including running in short bursts, jumping, turning, chasing squirrels, etc. To safely participate in strength activities repeatedly throughout the day, a dog needs stamina.

On the other hand, mushing, bike-joring, canicross, field trials, and Border Collie herding events are predominantly endurance sports. Dogs whose people are avid long-distance runners also need endurance. Because of the length of time during which these activities occur, these dogs also need stamina.

To give you a human sports-related comparison, think about runners who compete in the 100-m dash vs. marathon runners. Usain Bolt has been clocked at an astounding 28 mph, requiring tremendous strength, and one look at his muscular build confirms that. In contrast, competitive marathoners like Dennis Kimetto run at about 10 mph, but over a much more sustained period of time, requiring endurance.

If you build your dog’s stamina, it won’t become exhausted in the later stages of exercising, whether that’s for fun or competition. That’s important because when the muscles become fatigued, your pup enters the injury zone. In this zone, two things can happen:

  1. Your dog’s weakening muscles allow greater-than-normal flexion and extension of the joints, leading to strains (stretch injury to the muscle and/or tendon) and/or sprains (stretch injury to ligaments).

  2. Your dog isn’t able to be as careful about foot placement and might not have the strength to correct an error, like a foot that slips off the side of the agility dogwalk or off the edge of a cliff as your dog runs along a trail. These kinds of errors can also increase the risk of injury.

Boosting Your Dog’s Stamina

The best way to boost your dog’s stamina is to simply modify your pup’s existing fitness exercises. Hopefully, you’re already providing your canine companion with some additional, planned exercise beyond just going for walks. For more information on why walking might not be the best exercise for improving your dog’s strength, check this out.

Strength exercises might include The Wave – having your dog wave with its paw lifted higher than its head for 30 seconds – a great way to strengthen the front leg muscles. An exercise that strengthens the core and rear leg muscles is Front Feet Perched – having your pup place its front paws on an upside-down food bowl and circling to the right and left, maybe even stepping over bars or a ladder on the ground next to the bowl. For examples of excellent fitness exercises that target the front legs, core, or rear legs, check out these videos.

The best strength exercises are those that gradually work your dog to overload. For more details on the concept of overload, go here. When your pup approaches overload during a fitness exercise, depending on the exact motions involved, you’ll begin to notice that your dog starts to “cheat” a bit, either by changing its body position, moving away, fidgeting, or stopping entirely. This is a sign that your dog’s muscles are starting to fatigue, and that’s a good time to stop the exercise.

Record what you were doing when overload occurred (how many seconds or reps, depending on the exercise), so that next time you work on the exercise, you can start a little bit before that point and try to work past it. Keeping records will also help you determine whether your dog is gaining strength. This is important because if your pup isn’t progressing, it’s possible that they have an injury.

To boost your dog’s stamina, work an exercise to overload 3 to 4 times in a session, taking a 90-second break after each time your dog reaches overload. Another way is to work the exercise to overload several times a day. You can alternate between these two methods or do both in a single day.

It’s as simple as that! By making this modification to build stamina, you will greatly reduce the risk of injury when your dog is training, competing, or just being a happy pup playing with you or other dogs. It’s a win-win for both you and your furry friend!

Now, you might be wondering, “But how do I know if my dog is actually gaining stamina?” Well, the best way to measure it is to track your pup’s performance over time. For example, if your dog can run for 10 minutes on the treadmill without showing signs of fatigue, and then a few weeks later, it can run for 15 minutes, that’s a clear indication of improved stamina.

Another way to gauge your dog’s stamina is to observe its behavior during your daily activities. If your pup used to get tired and slow down halfway through your hike, but now it’s bounding ahead of you the entire time, that’s a great sign that its stamina has increased.

Remember, building your dog’s stamina is all about consistency and patience. It’s not going to happen overnight, but with a well-planned exercise routine and some dedication, you’ll start to see your furry companion’s endurance and energy levels soar. And that means more fun, more adventures, and a healthier, happier pup for years to come.

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