The body of a canine athlete should be physically toned to enable him to perform and excel in whatever sport or task required of him. Though all dogs need daily exercise, ones who regularly work or perform need a more expansive exercise regimen to maintain top physical form. Physical conditioning involves not only exercise, but also stretching, and warm-up and cool-down exercises. Most dogs do not exercise themselves with peak conditioning in mind, so it is important to make exercise part of your dog’s daily routine to maintain top body form.

Before beginning any exercise program with your canine athlete, have your veterinarian perform a full health check to detect any physical problems that could be aggravated by the activity. Extra weight means extra stress on bones and joints, so make certain your dog is at his ideal weight before leading into activities that may be too strenuous. 

Very young dogs must be limited in their activities to ensure that the exercise will not harm still-forming bones. (In general, it is best to wait until the growth plates have fully closed.) 

Care must also be taken with older dogs to guard against injuries to joints. In choosing your dog’s exercise program, consider his body structure and any physical limitations he may have so as not to push him beyond his limits. (Some characteristics include brachycephalic or flat head, long back, or heavy-boned build.)

The benefits of an exercise program are many. Physically conditioned dogs perform better in sport and competition with less occurrence and severity of injury. They are also able to maintain a healthy weight much more easily. Exercise is healthy psychologically for dogs as it gives them an appropriate outlet for energy and helps reduce hyperactivity, as well as behavior problems related to boredom or insufficient activity.

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