Conditioning and Retraining the Canine Athlete

Chris Zink, Brittany Jean Carr

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Exercise has significant physical and psychological benefits for dogs. One of the most important is extension of health span, the length of time that a dog remains healthy and active. Rehabilitation professionals are frequently asked to design tailored conditioning programs for young dogs before starting athletic training and for adult canine athletes that need a more comprehensive and sports-specific conditioning program. In addition, active dogs that, having reached pet level fitness during a rehabilitation program after an injury or surgery, need a fitness program to allow them to return to athletic condition in preparation for an active lifestyle, re-entering sports competitions, or for a working dog role while at the same time preventing re-injury and compensatory overuse. These conditioning programs are distinct from therapeutic exercises (see Chapter 8) that are designed to regain function after injuries or surgery. To design an appropriate conditioning program, the rehabilitation professional must first evaluate the dog's structure and gait (see Chapters 1 and 2), and identify the dog's structural strengths and weaknesses and current fitness level so that the conditioning program can target specific areas that need improvement. A balanced exercise program includes strength (anaerobic/resistance) training that targets the thoracic limbs, pelvic limbs, and/or core body muscles, endurance (aerobic) training, proprioception and balance exercises, preparation and recovery plans (stretching and flexibility exercises), and appropriate skill training. The program should balance duration, frequency, and intensity of training while avoiding overtraining. A sports retraining program requires that the rehabilitation professional has an understanding of the training requirements for the sport(s) in which the dog partici pates and provides specific guidance to the client as to what exercises and activities should be trained, and in what order and on what time schedule so that the dog is gradually and safely prepared for future extensive activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCanine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation
Subtitle of host publicationSecond Edition
Number of pages38
ISBN (Electronic)9781119380627
ISBN (Print)9781119380382
StatePublished - Mar 28 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Conditioning
  • Endurance
  • Exercise
  • Proprioception
  • Retraining
  • Strength

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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