I think that most people realize how important it is to keep ourselves and our dogs in shape. It is especially important for dogs who do any type of dog sports to stay conditioned. Most dogs that are well conditioned are less likely to suffer injuries than those dogs who are "weekend warriors". I say most dogs because overall structure plays a very important role in injuries and what your dog should be doing.
Earlier this year, I attended Pat Hastings "Structure in Action" seminar. Pat Hastings is very well known for her method of structurally evaluating puppies. Her seminar was very interesting and it really makes you think about the stress we put on our dogs' bodies when they are not structurally suited for what we are asking them to do. Maggie was a demo dog at the seminar and Pat did an evaluation of her. Maggie has had injuries and trouble jumping since she started agility. She doesn't have the best structure (straight in the front and the rear, loose elbows and slipped hocks are some of the structural deficiencies that were pointed out) and this shows in her gait and athletic abilities. Her body will break down much quicker than it should, therefore it is very important that she keeps her muscles strong.
Earlier this month, I attended another seminar hosted by a veterinarian who specializes in rehabilitation and performance dogs. She gave us lots of useful information about conditioning our dogs including endurance training, strength training and stretching. She was also doing individual evaluations so I had Bosley evaluated. I worry about him getting injured simply because of his large size - 100 pound dogs were not really meant to do agility. She was impressed with his overall structure, conditioning and movement. She said that the majority of Bernese she sees pace and he does not pace at all, even at a slow walk - so that is good. He did need one minor spinal adjustment and she said he should loose a couple pounds (she likes to see dogs very, very lean) but that was about it.
So what are my plans to keep Maggie and Bosley in shape? The usual daily walks including 20 minutes of trotting for endurance training. For strength training, they use the fit-ball a few days a week - they love their peanut ball which is good. I am also going to get some PVC and make some cavelettis and start working with those as well as they are great for conditioning and strengthening. I am also going to try to get better about doing stretching exercises with them - I should do them everyday, but I find it boring so I often forget.
Here are Maggie and Bosley showing off their peanut ball.
Here is Bosley hanging over the ball. This is not one of his exercises, but I couldn't hold the ball, keep him on and take pictures all at the same time.