Endurance Training for Dogs
Endurance training, also commonly referred to as aerobic training, is an important aspect of canine fitness. Whether they know it or not, most dog parents provide their dog with some form of regular endurance training, the most common form being the regular walk. Like there is with strength training, there is a correct way to train a dog to improve their endurance and progressions can be made to accelerate their bodies’ adaptation to the workouts.
Benefits of Canine Endurance Training
Endurance training is generally meant to target a dog’s aerobic system rather than their anaerobic system. Depending on the intensity, endurance training can impact both the cardiovascular as well as the muscular and skeletal systems. Dogs are natural endurance athletes. Their bodies were meant to be able to withstand long duration activities and to cover great distances when needed.
Like it does with humans, consistent endurance training can impact a dog’s body in several ways including:
- Decreases the resting heart rate of the dog.
- Increasing the hearts ability to pump blood.
- Increases the size (weight) of the heart as the muscle grows stronger.
- Changes the muscles in the dog’s body so that they are better able to draw on the slow twitch fibers needed for longer bouts of exercise.
- Increases the lactate threshold of the dog, allowing the dog to tolerate more intense and longer duration exercise.
- Increases the maximal oxygen consumption (the VO2 max) so that the dog can more easily sustain a steady state of exercise duress.
With all of these great benefits, it is easy to see why endurance exercise is so important for a dog.
How Much Endurance Training is Needed for a Dog?
Most pet parents are not aware of the minimum amount of endurance exercise needed to stimulate a dog’s aerobic system. The answer to this question depends on a lot of factors, but again, like with humans, the intensity level of the exercise is inversely related to the time needed to achieve an adaptation response. In other words, the more intense the exercise, the less time is needed to get a benefit.
As a rule of thumb, a dog would need to trot (not sprint) for around 20 minutes continuously to achieve an aerobic benefit. For those who only walk their dogs, figure on 2 to 3 times the time to achieve any aerobic improvements. Swimming is generally more challenging for a dog and thus, they will use more energy. A good rule of thumb is a continuous swim of around 10 minutes to achieve aerobic improvements.
Next week, I will provide some endurance exercise progressions that will enable a dog to markedly improve their endurance capability as well as make endurance training more fun and challenging for both the dog and the human.