Dogs can work hard – really hard. They will often play fetch, herd or do agility for what seems like hours on end. Many dogs will play until they have used every last bit of energy – then play some more!
Just like you, your favorite pooch needs to rest and recover properly after he has exerted himself. This is especially important for endurance training. Dogs too can suffer from muscle cramps, strains and dehydration; the proper rest and recovery procedures can help avoid injury and increase overall stamina.
Take periodic breaks
For people, letting the muscles relax periodically during strenuous exercise is one of the best ways to increase the length of the workouts, thereby increasing endurance. These breaks can be anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes. The less experienced or fit a person is, the longer a break they should take in between bursts of exercise. We can extrapolate that this is probably very similar in dogs.
If you take breaks during your sessions, you should be able to increase your dog’s stamina and overall endurance. Just as when people go jogging, slowing down to a walk for a moment can also help make your dog less tired overall after your activity. It can also decrease the chances of injury.
How do I know when my dog needs to take a break?
You can usually exercise your dog as long as he seems to be having fun, and acts pretty comfortable. Generally, most dogs will let you know when they have had enough. They will usually begin to pant heavily. They may sit, lie down, slow down or stop altogether.
Once your dog begins to tire, you should stop and take a break. Some high-energy breeds will go til they drop, so if you see them begin to pant uncontrollably or gasp for air you should stop for at least 30 minutes to let their body recover.
Hydration is key during your break time. Depending on weather/temperature conditions you should stop at least every mile or two during your exercise to give your dog water. Only offer small amounts at a time. If the climate is particularly dry, or it is a hot, humid day, you may need to stop more often for water breaks. When the weather is colder they can go further with less water breaks of course it varies from dog to dog and you will learn your dog(s) as you exercise them in different conditions.
The end of your exercise routine should encompass some slow, recovery activity. If you were running hard, gradually slow to a brisk walk, then to a relaxed walk to allow the muscles to cool down gradually.
Recovery After Exercise
After you are finished, your pup will probably be thirsty and hungry. Start with small amounts of water at first. When dogs drink too much water soon after exercise, it tends to come right back up. Wait until dog is relaxed and no longer thirsty to begin offering food. (I always allow at least 1 hour between feeding and exercise) This is especially true for dogs with deep chests, like Great Danes and boxers, as this may increase their risk of gastric dilation and volvulous (GDV), otherwise known as bloat, which can be fatal.
Massage is an excellent way to help your dog recover from a strenuous session. This increases bloodflow to the area, which helps take away the waste products from muscle metabolism. It also feels really good for Fido! This is also another opportunity to bond with your dog.
Massage time is also a good opportunity to groom your dog and check for debris such as burrs or leaves in the fur. Checking for ticks is also a great idea.
Which breeds are better for endurance?
Gun dogs and herding dogs tend to make the best choice in breeds for long distance runs and endurance tasks. Retrievers, pointers, spaniels, and sight hounds were also bred to be hardworking and owner-pleasing. Breeds such as the Standard Poodle, Labrador retriever, Brittany spaniel, Jack Russell terrier, vizsla, Siberian husky, Alaskan malamute, Australian cattle dog, German shepherds, border collie, greyhound and Weimeraner make great choices, but other individual dogs of a different breed may be just as willing to work hard.
The worst breeds for endurance, jogging or heavy exercise would be any of the bracycephalic breeds. These are the breeds with squished faces, and include the pug, English bulldog, French bulldog, Boston terrier and the Mastiff breeds. They cannot get oxygen as well as other breeds due to the formation of their airways, which makes it harder for them to handle rigorous activities.
Increasing endurance comes with properly resting your dog’s body and giving it time to recover during and after your workout sessions. Use some of these hints to help make the most of your training, and increase your pup’s stamina.