Have you ever watched a conditioning video online and wondered if your dog can do that? I recently have a friend share a video of an Aussie doing yoga with their owner. While it was an amazing video of physical ability it got me thinking about how what we see online can look pretty impressive but it can also be pretty deceptive in the amount of work and training that went into the work out.
Much of what the dog in the video was doing is a form of circuit training. Moving smoothly from one exercise to the next. But, just like the video of the Aussie doing yoga, there is a surprising amount of training and work that goes into getting your dog ready to do a circuit workout.
What is Circuit Training?
Circuit training is a fast-paced series of exercises in which you do 3-5 different exercises in a row, take a rest, and then do another couple of sets. Research in humans has shown that circuit programs carried out once a week in four weeks could be effective in maintaining physical fitness. Circuit training is a great way to target different parts of the body for a complete workout of strength, body awareness, flexibility, endurance, power, and cardio. To put it simply, circuit training has a lot of benefits and is also an efficient and fun way to condition your dog. It can be boring for you and your dog to do the same exercise over and over again; by switching between exercises, you keep things fun and engaging for your dog!
What's the Best Way to Do Circuit Training?
Before we can start circuit training it's important that our dogs know the individual exercises. Once the individual exercises are trained you can begin putting them together into a circuit. For maximum conditioning/health benefit, you will want to circuit train your dog 3 to 5 times a week. The number of times you complete circuit training in a week will also be determined by your sport specific training and competition schedule. If you have a busy week with sports, you will want to aim for 3x a week versus 5. I do not complete or recommend that you do a circuit work out AND sports training on the same day as this can create too much overload for your dogs body. We are also aiming for at least 1-2 days a week of rest. These are days where no structured activity is performed but hikes, play and walks are ok!
An effective circuit does not need to have a lot of equipment! Don't make things overly complicated, especially when first starting out! With circuit training I like to apply the KISS principle (Keep it simple, students!). Check out this set up of a recent circuit I did with a piece of unstable equipment, a cone and 3 poles. How many individual exercises do you think I packed into this simple layout?
If you guess six, you're right but there's actually a bunch more that I could do with this set up! When building a circuit exercise at home I like to find 2 - 3 pieces of equipment to build around. By building a circuit around a couple of pieces I keep it simple and uncomplicated meaning I'm less likely to fall victim to choice paralysis and actually get to conditioning. Another consideration is what type of exercises you are doing, meaning, what areas are you trying to target? You don't want to target the same area of the body. I may complete a front end work out (rear feet elevated) or a hind end work out (front feet elevated) but I would never do 5 tight turn exercises in a single circuit. Not only does this increase strain an a specific part of the body but it also defeats the purpose of getting a full body workout by doing circuit training.
There are SO MANY of different ways to build a circuit exercise. You could choose 2 or 3 pieces and work 3-5 exercise on those pieces or you can set up different stations to work through. Personally, I prefer to use 2 -3 pieces of equipment as oppose to stations as I'm not always able to build my circuit in a bigger space.
When choosing your equipment think about what your dog is comfortable with and what they're capable of physically completing. Remember that conditioning work is not a progression from stable equipment to unstable equipment but rather something we can swap in and out as needed, depending on what we are trying to work on. Also, remember that inflation is an under utilized tool and the inflation of your equipment should be adjusted to the fitness level of your dog or to offer new challenges to an exercise. I'd like to challenge you to think about the equipment you have at home and the types of exercises you do with them.
Then, start thinking of ways to build them into a circuit workout. As an example lets take three exercises - front feet targeting on a disc, a tuck sit, and a kick back stand. For ease, let's label the individual exercises as A, B, and C.
There are two ways you can then go about doing the circuit.
Troubleshooting Circuit Training
If your dog is unable to complete one exercise of the circuit (e..g unable to maintain form/not understanding the exercise) within 3-4 reps, there are generally four reasons why this is happening:
Circuit Training - Dos and Don'ts
Circuit training is a fun way to add variety to your regular conditioning work and is a great way to proof existing skills and build endurance. If you're looking for some ideas on the type of circuit exercises you can do with your dog and how to put it all together make sure to check out my exercise samplers I uploaded recently on my MCR YouTube page! I really enjoy trying circuits with my dogs and I hope you'll give it a try with your dogs as well! Let me know in the comments any challenges you've faced with conditioning or if you have a favourite circuit you like to do!