Is Your Dog a Weekend Warrior?
The expression “weekend warrior” is a term used for people who do little physical activity during the work week and then go out on the occasional weekend and attempt to play sports (e.g. like basketball or tennis) intensely or exercise strenuously. Often the result of such a strategy is a very sore body or worse, injury. The reason that weekend warriors are often sore or injured is because their bodies are not conditioned to handle the demands of intense activity, even if their minds are willing to try.
Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is very common condition for a weekend warrior and it is likely to recur unless the person commits to more regular exercise. Injuries, some minor (e,g, muscle strains) and some serious (e.g. tears), are also common, especially as the athlete ages and their levels of inactivity increase.
Unfortunately, far too many dogs are also weekend warriors and they are susceptible to the same resulting conditions.
Dogs are amazing athletes and they actually prefer to be very active. Yet, their activity is often constrained by the fact that their families are too ‘busy’ during the week to provide their dogs with adequate exercise. Then, when the weekend comes around, the dog is run ragged via games of fetch, the dog park, and other activities. The end result is the same for the dog as the human: a sore, if not injured body. The only difference is that the dog won’t complain or ask for their anti-inflammatory pills (like Ibuprofen). Ultimately, the weekend warrior dog is at risk for discomfort and injury if they are not adequately conditioned and they will feel sore and their bodies will get injured.
How to Avoid Having a Canine Weekend Warrior
There are only two choices for a dog owner to avoid turning their pet into a weekend warrior. First, the pet should be exercised daily and included in the exercise program should be some high intensity activity at least 2 times per week. Short duration, slow walks are fine, but the pet handler should mix in some sprints or other activities to make sure the dog’s muscles and other soft tissues are taxed in order to generate a growth response. This will condition the dog to be able to withstand the rigors of the active weekends. If the family is too busy to do this, they should consider hiring a canine fitness trainer or dog runner.
For those families that simply can’t exercise their dogs during the week, then the only alternative is to limit the dog’s activity on the weekends to lower intensity, short duration activities. In my opinion, this is a poor choice as it establishes the pattern of minimal exercise for the dog. However, in the short term, it will at least help to prevent the dog from discomfort and injury.