Conditioning Exercises for Bird Dogs

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A well-conditioned bird dog has greater stamina and longevity, with less stress on the body, crucial for success in the field. The five components of conditioning are strength training, endurance, balance, body awareness, and flexibility. These exercises build on those components to deliver maximum benefits. 
 
Note that it takes several months to get a dog in tiptop shape. Adopting and implementing this program now will pay dividends by the upcoming hunting season.
 

Strength Training (Resistance Training)

  • Examples: Running uphill (straight or angled), weight/cart pulling, hindlimb resistance bands, trotting over obstacles (Cavaletti exercises), stand/down/sit, crawling
  • Benefit: Increases muscle girth and decreases stress on joints by building muscles to support joints

Endurance Training

  • Examples: Slow, steady trot for at least 20 minutes, steady swim for at least 15 minutes
  • Benefit: Decreases heart rate, increases lactate threshold in muscles (exercise intensity at which lactic acid begins to accumulate), and increases maximal oxygen consumption (point during exercise when oxygen consumption remains at a steady state despite increase in work)

Balance

  • Examples: Figure 8 walking on an air mattress, three-leg and two-leg standing on a balance ball or disc
  • Benefit: Increases core strength

Body Awareness (Proprioceptive Training)

  • Examples: Ladder/obstacle/plank walking, mattress walking
  • Benefit: Increases the ability to sense spatial orientation of the body and adjust movements accordingly; Proprioceptors located in the muscle send signals to the brain, allowing for coordinated movement; Nerves can be trained, and the connection between neurons can be strengthened

Flexibility

  • Examples: Stretching program twice weekly
  • Benefit: Increases extensibility of tissues and range of motion; Decreases chance of tearing muscle/tendon fibers
Remember to always gradually warm up and cool down a dog 10 to 15 minutes before and after exercise. Beforehand, a brisk walk will improve flexibility and heat the muscles, reducing the risk of injury. Afterward, a slow leash walk helps to prevent blood from pooling in the muscles and reduces soreness. 
 
Nutrition also is critical component to conditioning your hardworking bird dog. Diet can change a dog’s athleticism. Canine athletes must be fed a high-fat, high-protein performance food to maximize their performance. These dogs have a high oxygen metabolism, or VO2 max, which gives them increased aerobic energy and endurance. 
 
The Purina Pro Plan SPORT portfolio is designed to provide optimal nutrition for your hardworking bird dog. Visit proplan.com/dogs/platforms/sport to learn more about the formulas. Then, let Purina know how the Purina Pro Plan SPORT nutritional platform has helped your hardworking bird dog achieve success in the field by writing a review at proplan.com/reviews