Now that you are signed up for your first event, “How do I train?” might be your first question. Well, that’s a great question. Let’s answer that question by going over 4 basic ways you can train yourself and your dog for your first event.
One of the easiest things you can do to train with your dog is go on daily walks. This is very simple because it takes very little planning. Grab your leash, a poop bag, and off you go. This can be very mentally and physically stimulating for both you and your dog. A simple walk might be minimal exercise, but it will raise your heart rate a little. This also allows your dog to check in on what’s happening in the neighborhood. Just as we check our e-mail, dogs like to check their pee-mail. They can tell who has been out and about, if there’s been new visitors, and if someone is not feeling well.
Walks can also be a good time to work on some basic commands with few distractions. You can work on your “sit” command before crossing a road or when you stop to greet someone. Your “leave it” command will come into practice when your dog sees some tasty garbage or a small animal. And of course, you can always work on your “heel” and “watch me” commands on a daily walk. The great thing about walks is that you can take them at almost any time and multiple times a day. If you feel you are too busy, just remember, walks don’t have to be long to be effective.
Going on a hike is another great way to get exercise and train for your event. Hikes will take a little more time and planning, but they are well worth it! Always make sure to take enough water for the both of you. You will also want to take a first aid kit with items for you and your dog. As with all outings with your dog, always remember to bring plastic bags for waste removal.
If you are as lucky as I am, I have hundreds of trails within a few miles of my home. Unless you live in a strictly urban area, you should be able to find at least a few trails that are relatively close by. Normally, even urban areas have running and walking paths that are dog friendly. Do a little research and find a list of trails close by. Usually there are reviews on the trails that may be helpful to you in choosing which paths to take.
Trails with hills are a great way to get a little more exercise. The hills will help you and your dog use different muscles of your body, strengthening tendons and ligaments. This kind of conditioning will help prevent injuries. If you can make it up to some hills or mountains, the fresh air at the higher elevations can be very healthy and refreshing. Another reward for getting to the top is the beautiful scenery. There is something about a view from above that can be very stimulating and almost Zen like.
For a little more exercise, jogging and running can be an excellent option. One of the best things about running is that you can get a lot of exercise in a short period of time. Running can really get your heart rate up. Maintaining an increased heart rate for at least 20 minutes or more can really improve cardiovascular health if done consistently. Running is also great for weight control or weight loss for both you and your dog.
Before you go out running, you do have to remember a few things. Start small and gradually increase the durations of your runs. If you start at 2 miles comfortably, increase that distance at about 10% per week maximum. It is also a good idea to check with your doctor or vet to make sure you are both in good enough health for running and for what distances. Of course, always remember to take water and waste bags with you on the run; you will almost always need them.
Agility courses are the fourth way we suggest you use to train for your event. The agility courses we have set up are in large open areas so you can run, jog, or walk a little between obstacles. The obstacles themselves can be very mentally and physically stimulating, challenging you and your dog to take on new things that you won’t find on your normal adventures. For example, going over raised planks takes focus and balance. Jumping hurdles increases strength throughout a great deal of the body. Dogs that are prone to hip dysplasia may benefit from hurdles and other jumps because jumps can strengthen dog’s backs and legs.
Strengthening a dog’s back helps support the back end of the dog and also the hips. The agility courses also include activities such as running through weave poles which sharpens their dexterity and awareness. Tunnels may also be a part of the agility course which assists dogs to overcome their fear of the unknown. When they conquer that fear it can really boost a dog’s confidence and reduce any anxiety they may have. The sit box is another great tool on the agility course. It helps reinforce basic obedience commands and control. There are many other agility and training obstacles that all assist in improving the strength, balance, coordination, and confidence of both you and your pet. Just remember, before attempting agility obstacles, first make sure that you and your dog are physically capable of doing them. If you have current injuries or arthritis, you may not want to attempt the jumps or balancing obstacles. Check with your doctor and vet to assess the level at which you both can perform.
Now that we’ve outlined some of the great ways to train, you just have to get out there and do it! It can be helpful to make a weekly schedule that includes the different types of training. If you can get in at least one agility course a week that will really assist you in being ready for your event. Getting in a hike every week would be ideal, but make every effort to do one at least once a month if possible. If you implement these training strategies, you will notice an improvement in the overall health and happiness of you and your best friend.
Good job! You just made a better life for the both of you!