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  • Writer's pictureDr Sandra Hassett

Have You Considered Cross Training Your Dog?©

It’s so easy to slip into the same routine with your dog’s, and your own, exercise. This can be the case whether you are training for competition or just exercising for fun and to burn off your fur friend’s excess energy. It is particularly so if your fur friend is a bit obsessive-compulsive and loves to do the same exercise over … and over … and over … and over …

What is Cross Training?

Cross training is the simple concept of incorporating different exercise regimes rather than focussing exclusively on the same type of activity. Swimmers train in the gym to build muscle and weight lifters incorporate flexibility exercises as well as strength. It can be done within one training session or by doing different activities on different days. Each activity works their body differently.

Why is it useful?

There are multiple benefits to cross training including:

  • reduced risk of injury: doing the same activity over and over can result in repetition strain injuries, particularly if the activity is high impact such as fly ball or agility or even just ball chasing or running with other dogs at the dog park. This is particularly the case in Canberra in summer or during droughts, when the ground is literally as hard as concrete. Cross training allows affected tissue to rest and heal whilst still achieving exercise goals.

  • improved performance: a good example of this is doing core strengthening exercises for agility dogs or endurance training for tracking dogs. Enhanced core strength means they can turn faster, endurance training means they can track for longer without fatiguing.

  • increased mental stimulation: some training can be quite stressful and repeating the same exercises over and over can reduce enthusiasm and induce boredom. If your obedience dog gets to go tracking or do nose work then training suddenly becomes more fun. Mental challenges also help to tire out those dogs with boundless energy!

  • rehabilitation after injury: sometimes it is necessary to reduce all activity for a short period after injury or surgery but more commonly there are lots of exercises that can still be undertaken to keep your dog fit and mentally active. See also

How can I cross train my dog?

Here are 3 simple examples of cross training options for you to consider:

1. Hydrotherapy: this can be as formal sessions, for example under water treadmill with a trained therapist, or by incorporating a trip to the lake, river, dam, or ocean, depending on your location. If your dog has health issues or is recovering from injury then a formal session is best. A good rule of thumb is that exercising 100m in water is equivalent to 500 – 1000m on land, so adjust the distances accordingly. Hydrotherapy is low impact, excellent for building strength and encouraging weight loss.

2. Ball work: this involves teaching your dog to balance on a disc, peanut, pod, bone or ball. It is an excellent way to improve core strength and encourage balance and body awareness, is low impact and can be used to build endurance. Lots of dogs love it and see sticking on the ball as a challenge to be mastered!

3. Scent work: this can be formal such as tracking and Nose Work or informal such as playing hide and seek at home or finding hidden objects. Scent work encourages the dog to think and problem-solve and develops their self confidence. It is also mentally challenging and a dog who is tired mentally doesn’t need as much physical exercise.

Each week incorporate one to three sessions of any of the above rather than doing your usual training or exercise. Your dog, and their body, will love you for it!

Useful Links

1. For more information on cross training or canine rehabilitation contact us at:

2. For information on underwater treadmill in Canberra:

3. Canberra Dog Walks has excellent information on dog swimming areas in Canberra at

5. For information on tracking in Canberra:

6. For information on Nose Work in Canberra:

Disclaimer: The information in this article is general in nature and not intended to provide specific veterinary advice. If your dog has specific health issues a thorough physical examination by a trained veterinary professional is recommended. Veterinary clearance before instituting any new activity program is also recommended.



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