WELLness & conditioning
What is Animal Wellness & Conditioning?
Fitness is essential for all animals to maintain top physical form and prevent injuries when performing daily activities from walking, running, jumping, swimming or playing. Our conditioning programmes teach your pets to understand proper exercise form and correct muscle usage. These programmes are designed to enhance your pet’s muscle endurance and cardiovascular stamina, enabling them to reach optimum performance. When both mental and physical stimulation is carried out in this way, excessive barking, digging, pent-up frustration, tail-chasing or other destructive behaviours can be reduced, while minimizing the risk of injury.
This is especially applicable to our canine companions. Good body awareness is required for proper core and leg muscle engagement when catching frisbees, chasing balls or leaping up and down the couch. Some domestic dogs (the hunting and herding breeds in particular) have been selectively bred for higher activity levels. As such, the activities they engage in with their owners often have a greater impact on their spine and joints.
During wellness and conditioning sessions, we train their proprioceptive awareness and balance by engaging in different activities — fitness swim, land treadmill, and canine obstacle courses, among other things. It combines the needs of their physical body with the needed mental stimulation. It is important to complete a range of different activities within a short period for the body to build endurance and increase stamina and metabolism. This ensures that all aspects of the target muscle groups are being built up, just like our intensive gym sessions!
Chewy flying over the jumps during her conditioning session!
Who is suitable for Animal Wellness and Conditioning?
Most dogs across all life stages in good physical condition without any pre-existing conditions, or at a stable maintenance stage, can be good candidates for Wellness and Conditioning. At Gaia, your dog must first be evaluated by our trained animal rehabilitation practitioners to ensure that he/she is healthy and well before starting on our Wellness and Conditioning programme.
Long-backed dogs such as dachshunds and corgis will greatly benefit from strengthening of their core muscles (located over the back and stomach). As they tend to have shorter limbs, hyperextension of hocks is relatively common nowadays as they often do not know how to properly engage these core muscles. This can be dangerous when they run or leap; should they not catch their balance in time to stop or avoid collisions, they could easily twist and rupture a spinal disk.
Obese dogs have decreased speed and stamina, hindering their capacity for physical activity, besides making them more prone to heat exhaustion. The excess weight burdens the joints, leading to arthritic changes and increasing the risk of torn ligaments, spinal or cardiac problems, and difficulty breathing.
Puppies very often skid around and flop when they play, which may adversely affect their growth, changing the bone structure and growth plate positioning. In the long term, this may result in reduced bone density and a higher propensity to fractures. They should never be pushed to exercise beyond their limits as their growth plates are not ready for high-impact, high-intensity activity at this age. Educating your puppy on proper muscle engagement and gait/locomotion would also cultivate good habits for walking on leash. Do keep in mind not to allow your puppy to run or jump excessively until he/she has finished growing; but do let him walk, run and play at his own speed.
Yandao and Lengzai love swimming together in the pool
A note from Karen, our Principal Animal Rehabilitation Practitioner
As an Animal Rehabilitation Practitioner since 2016, I have seen the various injuries that can occur during a simple game of fetch or tug-of-war, jumping up and down couches/beds or climbing stairs. I have discharged many animals with low grade medical conditions such as luxating patella, hip dysplasia, low grade IVDD and arthritis.
The biggest aid owners can provide for their dogs is to follow up with precautions and safety measures. Some examples include changing the environment (e.g. slippery surfaces), braces if required when exercising, life jackets when swimming on their own, or stopping activities which worsen existing conditions. Many pets have graduated from rehabilitation and moved on to wellness and conditioning, so that we can continue to strengthen up their musculoskeletal system and build endurance, strength, and stamina for agility, competition or working dogs.
Both caretaker and pet also need to understand that the session targets areas which your dog should improve upon, and is different than a typical play period. Being actively engaged in all aspects of the workout will also continue to stimulate their proprioception and thus their mental clarity. Physical wellness is essential to nurture their physical, mental and emotional health for a happy canine companion!