Conditioning Your Pooch for Adventure

June 28, 2016

Benefits of Swimming for Active Canines

By Leigh Anne Hardy

Photo at right: Reese dives into a channel which connects the Sandy River and Columbia River in Troutdale, Oregon. Reese and his human, Jules Michel, live in Portland, Oregon.


As the weather warms up and you begin to get your dog out hiking on the trails or out running, it is important to make sure Fido is conditioned and ready for fun adventures.

When coming up with a conditioning plan it is important to take your dog’s age and current fitness level into consideration. For example, a dog younger than the age of two should avoid high-impact and leg-twisting activities until their growth plates are closed. And a dog that has been sedentary for months shouldn’t be expected to do a mile or more of hiking or running.

Swimming is one of the best forms of conditioning exercise for a dog because the activity uses nearly every muscle in the body. The water offers a way to improve flexibility and strength, increases endurance and is easy on the joints. It also strengthens the cardiovascular system while stimulating the mind.

Not all dogs can swim even if they automatically start paddling near water. Some may not stay afloat while others stay afloat but use only their front legs, when they really should
be using the “motor” of their hind legs, too.

If you’re unsure how well your pooch stays afloat, consider swim lessons in a contained environment, such as a canine pool as a great way to see how well your pup will do.

No matter how good a swimmer your pet is, dog vests are a convenient and safe way to be in open water with your pooch.

Conditioning your dog for summer adventures can decrease injury and increase confidence and will no doubt increase your fun summer adventures.

Leigh Anne Hardy is a licensed massage practitioner certified in large and small animal massage and founded SplashDog Canine Well-Being Center in Edmonds, Washington in 2004. SplashDog offers warm-water therapy and swimming, body conditioning on physio-equipment, Acupuncture, massage, Reiki, education and more.