by Scot E. Dowd Ph.D.
Goals of conditioning
The dictionary defines conditioning as "developing a state of health, readiness, and physical fitness."
The American Pit Bull Terrier is an all around versatile athlete. Thus, conditioning must be directed toward the goal of optimizing versatility.
Ultimately the exemplified APBT combines agility, speed, endurance and strength.
The goals of conditioning are simple
health and well-being are enhanced by daily exercise. Dogs that get out of their crates or kennels once a week are obvious in the show ring. They may appear to be in shape but they are mushy with no real muscle tone.
Enhanced performance- A dog that is conditioned will perform any task better.
Injury reduction- Take a fat dog over a few agility jumps (if they can jump) and before long the joints will suffer, the heart will give out, and the dog will collapse from exhaustion long before a conditioned animal will even feel the workout.
Enhanced beauty - There is nothing more beautiful than a fully conditioned APBT.
The goals of the program are simple; to build strong, well-conditioned dogs who can perform to the best of their ability. Endurance and strength are keys to winning any competition (weight pull, agility, flyball, Conformation etc) and go hand in hand with the physical and mental well-being of the animal. Nothing could be more critical than keeping your dogs healthy and well conditioned. Lean muscle keeps the athletic dog from incurring injuries even when playing in the back yard. Conditioning helps the dog heal more quickly if an injury does occur. When muscles and ligaments are strong and joints are healthy they are prepared to support the whole body through rigorous and intense activity.
If we draw a comparison to athletes the perfect specimen of the APBT might be similar to an Olympic wrestler. There are the powerlifter styles and the sumo wrestler styles, but for the purpose of an all around functional specimen the APBT must be moderate in form and in excellent condition to have maximum versatility of function.
An animal that is carrying excess body fat will break down during intense physical activity. The APBT should at all times, especially in the show ring be presented in a form that speaks of peak conditioning. Even a moderately overweight dog when running agility or even running around a show ring will break down, become fatigued and be injured. Dogs even moderately overweight or underconditioned are comparatively slow and ponderous, they lack the necessary endurance required to sustain physical activity for more than a few minutes. The saddest thing I see, these days, are those "winning show dogs" that start panting after trotting one time around a show ring. Judges that put up out of shape dogs, especially in a working breed like the APBT, do nothing more than show their lack of understanding for what a breed standard is and what the history and functionality of a true APBT stands for. This is a lack of understanding of the history and the working type that the APBT should epitomize. Kudos to judges and competitors who take the time to condition their animals, even a little beyond the sofa.
PUPPIES: up to 18 months at least!!!!
Before we go on, we have to stress a very important point. puppies do not need to be undergoing intense physical training and conditioning. puppies should not be conditioned!!! Treat a puppy like a puppy. They need to learn, be socialized, have fun, play and maybe a bit of moderate exercise. puppies should not be conditioned!! BUT: At the same time all puppies should be getting tons of activity. puppies need a variety of activities in a variety of settings (vaccinations taken into account) so that they will be socialized and used to any environment. Let a puppy mature naturally, let their bones grow straight and true, let their minds become strong and well socialized, let their muscles develop. If you excessively train a puppy it will succeed in only one thing. You will ruin their Conformation, break their spirit, and reduce their full potential as a universal athlete.
Don’t work hard on a puppy they need time to develop naturally. The goal of a puppy conditioning is to build a solid foundation not over-train and destroy the structure and temperament. We will talk more about a conditioning program for puppies that will ensure they have the best chance at competing in all events and becoming a UKC Superdog!
Rationale for conditioning the APBT
It is essential that the APBT be maintained at a correct weight! The APBT standard does not suggest or imply or allow for a dog that is "flabby, moderately overweight, and with a pendulous abdomen!" Instead, it states that the dog must have moderate tuck, which suggest the dog has a waist. This does not mean the dog is fully conditioned as we might see in the ADBA ring, but the dog must not be fat! There are obvious stresses exerted on the musculoskeletal system even in conformation. Any other working event these stresses are compounded and amplified. It seems very few APBT owners, especially in the UKC, are aware that their dogs are fat. They post photos of their conditioned dogs with layers of blubber covering ribs and muscles. This same blubber is also surrounding the dog’s heart and internal organs reducing their efficiency. When palpating the ribcage and the loin, you should be able to feel the bones of the vertebrae and easily feel the ribs under the skin.
The main emphasis in a conditioning program for adult APBTs is that it is hard work for the owners too! This is why most show dogs are presented fat and why this has become the norm. The show dog should be preferred in a highly conditioned state. Conditioning is actually not hard work for the dog usually, because they typically will grow to love and enjoy their workout time with the owner. The work on the owner is further compounded when there are several dogs to train. A true owner of champions (not a powder puff owner of champions) realizes that it is by working hard and emphasizing the small things in life, such as how fit all of their dogs are, which truly defines a dogman or woman.
For the dog, there are several factors (genetic, structure, temperament, and stewardship) that help to create a champion. However, to truly say your dog is a true Grand Champion, there should be a great deal of your own hard work engraved in the center.
The Conformation of the dog dictates much in regards to conditioning and what type of conditioning we should be focusing on. Also there are various events that require different forms of conditioning. We are assuming that you want to compete and win at a multitude of events including Conformation, weight pull, agility, and obedience. These events can be conflicting. It is difficult for the weight pull only dog to do well in Conformation and the agility dog cannot usually compete with the weight pull only dogs. My philosophy is diversity and maintaining the overall potential for health. I do not want just a show dog, or a dog that pulls 10,000 lbs but cannot gait properly. I dont want a dog that can move correctly around a ring but cannot get their body weight off the floor and over an agility jump. This is what we will focus on in this chapter. The all around athlete.
Based upon a dogs Conformation, the dog will have strengths and weaknesses. We must design a conditioning program to build on the weaknesses and maintain the strengths. Thus, we must truly have an understanding for conformation. Conformation defines what the dog is capable of and what the dog is capable of is dictated by its conformation. If you are not truly familiar with how form and function coexist you must step back and admit this. It is only through a true understanding of Conformation and structure that we can really appreciate and design a conditioning program tailored for each individual animal. Can you make a list of your dog's strengths and weaknesses? If your dog is perfect, then you do not know enough about conformation. For no dog is without structural weaknesses. It is after defining the most prominent weakness of structure that we can logically create a conditioning program unique to that dog.
The most prevalent structural weakness in the Conformation bred APBT is lack of shoulder layback, short upright pasterns, short upper arms, and lack of stifle (short upper leg). Thus, when training such a "show dog" that has only minimal shoulder layback and the rest of these issues we would not want to allow the animal to jump at full height during training. As noted by so many advanced trainers of agility, such a dog should only jump at full height only when excellent footing and a very soft landing surface is available.
If you really do not understand Conformation this site will help you build your knowledge. http://www.apbtconformation.com You can also visit our forum and ask for advise or a critique of your dog. http://www.ukcpitbull.com/pit
The first step before beginning your conditioning program is to know Conformation, structure and physical health. We cannot however tell whether there are problems with hips, heart, lungs, elbows just by looking at a dogs structure. How many Grand Champion APBTs have you heard about that drop dead at 4 years old due to a heart attack? I know of too many! There are many problems that can cause intensive pain that we cannot see by visual examination. The dog may act healthy and be very active and may not exhibit pain but they still can have dysplasia of hips and elbows. They could have heart murmurs or thyroid conditions. We must realize that before we decide to create that perfect athlete and spend hours and hours of hard training we must get our dog evaluated by a veterinarian.
The bare minimum!
Take your dog to a vet and get OFA prelims. This can be done between 6 months and 18 months of age. The vet does a set of x-rays of the dogs hips to check for looseness of the joints or malformations of the hip sockets. Problems of the hips and elbows can cause severe pain to the working dog even if they are acting fine. The APBT is known for their ability to withstand pain thus merely convincing yourself they are healthy because they act right is delusional. Evaluations can be performed by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or veterinarians involved in the PennHip Study at the University of Pennsylvania. Elbow X-rays are also advised and can be evaluated by OFA. In the APBT especially certain "show lines" a cardiac examination is also recommended. There is high prevalence of heart murmurs that can be managed but which would preclude you from the intensive conditioning programs. Finally, to ensure that the dog has no abnormalities of vision, your dog's eyes should be examined by a veterinary ophthalmologist (CERF).
thanks for that post...i got a lot of good info out of that....
i also like the link you gave apbt network conformation site...i was just wondering...i was looking for info about weight for a dog..my boy is 9 months and is @ 68lbs...the dogs on that site looked kind of big..ive been getting info on this forum that apbt should only be like 45 lbs or something like that.......the dogs on that site looked very good and a little heavier than that.......
Thanks Eric for posting it here as well .. If anyone wants more good info this is where I found this article here is the link lots of good info everyone should read it if they haven't already
Encyclopedia of the American Pit Bull Terrier : Weight Pull Training
...don't the dogs have to be 24 months to be OFA Certified in the hips???
@ 60 too..;)
Here you go
Preferred weight is 30-60 lbs. A lot of the dogs on the APBT Conformation site are in that range. Mad love for Dr. D. He's smart, he's on our side, he does a lot of work for the breed and he even finds time to breed some nice dogs.
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