Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Yumove Review - March 2010
Sandrine Farr also wrote a review, so Ellen combined the two of ours together, which is a brilliant idea in my opinion as you get to see too sides.
Sunday, 28 March 2010
Well, I said there’d be some observations.
On the BFA Webboard (and spilled over to Flyball Fever) there is a huge debate about the points system. I like points, but I don’t love them to the point of obsession. I’m not going to write about this anyway, as I think a lot has already been said and I’m totally exhausted from reading the emails. However, there was an interesting point raised about “flogging” dogs, and their fitness. Here I’m not disputing dogs being “flogged” it just made me think about general fitness.
A real pet hate of mine is dogs that aren’t fit enough for what is being asked of them – probably to an extent in agility too. Ok, there are always going to be reasons why certain dogs aren’t fit. I can accept that sometimes dogs are recovering from injury or coming back from having litters, and sometimes there are constraints on the handler from working long hours or terrible weather (as we saw over Christmas). However it makes me really sad when dogs are expected to do a whole day’s racing when they’re nowhere near prepared for it. Sometimes there is a noticeably huge difference in times by the end of the day as dogs start to struggle, or are continually re-run. To me, not having a go at anyone, I wouldn’t like it if I was asked to run a marathon having only prepared by having a jog around the park every day. Perhaps I’m just very lucky in the fact that my Mum is in most of the day and does lots with our dogs while I’m at university – and I probably wouldn’t be saying this if my situation was different. Again, I really don’t want to seem like I’m lecturing anyone, but just sharing what I know.
Anyway, being a self confessed geek on this topic, I thought I’d take this opportunity to share what I know. I’ve spent a long time looking up different ways of keeping dogs fit and various theories on the best way to do it. I’ve referenced where I can, these aren’t all my ideas, but I apply a lot of them to our dogs. I have to say though, our dogs can still get a lot fitter, and hopefully now we’re approaching summer and I’ll be back home, I can try even more with them.
Firstly, I have to say that the texts I highly recommend are by Dr.Christine Zink. She’s written three fantastic books; “Conditioning the Canine Athlete”, “Jumping from A-Z” and “The Agility Advantage”. By no means do I agree with everything she says, but she raises some very good and interesting points. Some of what I know is from her, but there have been many contributors.
I won’t write too much, as the references and follow up links are there for you to see, but here goes:
There are four major types of exercise for the sporting dog;
1. Skill training – this is the actual training for the sport itself. For example it might be full runs or boxwork in flyball, or any form of agility
2. Strength – this isn’t weight lifting! This is exercise that involves the dog accelerating and decelerating over relatively short distances, and in some cases pushing against a force. A good example of this would be retrieving or running up hills. This may also involve exercises which they have to use their muscles when stationary or not moving much, for example playing tug, begging or crawling.
3. Endurance- this is more long term exercise and is usually when dogs travel at the same pace continually for an extended period of time. For example 20mins trotting is appropriate, as is 10minutes swimming. In her book, Zink mentions how retrieving from the water, or getting in and out often is more of a strength exercise.
4. Proprioception – this is the awareness of the body, and the position of the body in space. Some dogs don’t have a clue where their back legs are, and how to use them, so this is useful. The purpose of these exercises is to make dogs more aware of their bodies, which will really help in both agility and flyball. Exercises include walking through ladders, backing up, walking over piles of jump poles (arrange randomly and the dog walks through the gaps), and walking over various surfaces. The important thing with these is to make the dog do them SLOWLY. If not, I know Jet would quite happily try and charge through a ladder and do no end of damage to herself!
All of which are important for flyball and agility dogs, but in different proportions. Zink shows how flyball dogs need to focus on strength exercises, and similarly for agility dogs with slightly more endurance. At first, when I read this I wasn’t really convinced that flyball dogs need to focus mostly on strength. My argument being that in a day, dogs will do an awful lot of running and you want them to have stamina and I figured that meant endurance. However when speaking to my tutor (a biomechanics specialist) about all of the above, he questioned why you would want to do lots of endurance. His argument was that rather than doing flyball all day at a continuous pace (like us jogging), you want them to run their fastest and recover quickly, in order to run their fastest again. This made a lot of sense and translated to interval training in humans. In my opinion however, a mixture of interval and endurance can’t do them any harm.
Interval training, briefly is bursts of high intensity exercise with low activity or rest in between. For dogs this would involve doing strength training in blocks, and allow for recovery in between each block. For example you might ask the dog to do hill reps (release the dog to run up the hill – to someone else or a toy) 6 times and then walk around and let them recover and do more strength training once they’re recovered. You don’t have to keep the strength training the same each time; you could do 6 hill reps (recover), 10 retrieves (recover), and 10 retrieves from the water (recover). This would obviously depend on where you walk – but it’s worth bearing in mind. It takes 48hours for muscles to fully recover from this type of training, so probably better not to do it the day before a competition, or to do it every day.
One final interesting point is from Nancy Gyes, who is a founder of one of the top agility schools in the world, Power Paws, and has also represented the USA at the FCI World Championships:
“As an instructor I often see students for private consultation to fix some kind of specific problem. Often the handler is interested in having the dog perform a course or specific obstacle with more speed. I always find it shocking when I get the answer to this question, "How often every week does your dog exercise at a run?" Typical answers range from "once or twice a week in agility class and competitions", to "never, he is a couch potato."
If your dog is not running at full speed while jumping, or performing obstacles, then you need to "take it to the ground". You cannot start any kind of a program to develop quicker ground or contact speed without first beginning on the "flat".”
This is very interesting, as basically I think she’s saying if your dog doesn’t know how to run full speed on the flat, how will they do it effectively on the flyball or agility course?
The overall key principle that comes up again and again is that no two dogs are the same! Each dog is different and may need this adapting slightly differently to get a good balance between stress and inactivity. You know your dog best, but these are my ideas from being a canine conditioning geek.
The Agility Advantage – Dr.Christine Zink
Conditioning The Canine Athlete – Dr.Christine Zink
Animal Physiotherapy – McGowan, Goff and Stubbs