02 June 2011
Tower Hill - Trail of the Day
Hills are a great addition to walking for me and the dogs.I am working on conditioning myself and my dogs while developing programs for conditioning show dogs.
Knowing what to work on is an art and a science and does require good judgment and common sense so you'll know what to work on, how much work to do and when to increase the workload to improve strength and endurance.
My program -- for me and my dogs -- involves walking everyday. We recently moved from a mildly hilly area to a neighborhood that has "Hills" in the name. Yes, these are bigger, more demanding hills that reminded me that I have not been doing enough of that work in my program.
Why are hills good for you and your dog? (This works for horses too -- if you want information about that, let me know.) Hills work because your dog's body weight is being used to his advantage. Think about it as the effort needed to climb makes that muscles work harder and the body exert more energy.
From climbing along with the dogs, I can tell you it made my lungs work harder and got my heart rate up too. The same benefits apply to the dogs and you also get the added bonus of improving muscles in the forearms from pulling up the hill and the hindquarters from pushing up the hill. Makes me think about Dr. Doolittle's Pushmi-Pullyu (Push-Me-Pull-You)...
Today we walked up the hill -- mostly for me as the dogs would have easily sped up. Remember to begin slowly with hill work so you don't have soft tissue injuries. Out of shape muscles have a propensity to pull or tear if subjected to sudden stress. (This goes for you and your dog.) As fitnesses increases the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints are better able to handles the work and you may increase your speed.
The long slow walk up the hill in great for building stronger lower leg and is good for building up your dog's thigh and gaskin. If the dog were to run / gallop up the hill the muscles in the butt / rump will be the group being worked. As a precaution, the run up the hill should only be done after your dog is really fit and be careful not to overdo.
To improve your dog's coordination and balance, you can add in working along the sides of hills too. This also helps develop a more even dog -- providing that you work both sides of the dog.
One thing to be aware of when walking your dog up, down and around the sides of hills: be mindful of your leash -- you should not be allowing your dogs to pull you up the hill and you'll want to practice easy or slow for the walk down so you aren't dragged down the hill.
As with all things exercise related, check with your doctor and your dog's veterinarian to be certain you are all healthy enough for this work.
Is there something you would like to see covered here? Let me know!