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Gaining the performance edge: a report on the Purina Sporting Dog Summit.

LAST SUMMER ELITE trainers and handlers from across several sporting segments were invited to the Sporting Dog Summit at Purina's Event Center in Gray Summit, Missouri, to learn from experts on how to gain a competitive advantage. The program offered insights related to conditioning, training, nutrition, as well as preventing and recognizing sporting dog injuries in the field.

Understanding that preparing sporting dogs for the rigors of competition or multiple days afield means being knowledgeable about the little things that can make a difference in performance. Sporting dogs are tremendous athletes. Successful trainers take the little things to heart and build them into their training program.


The Sporting Dog Summit was designed to offer those trainers and handlers solid information, based on science and delivered by those very scientists whose research is paving the way to new, better and safer methods of exercise, training and care--in short, helping hardworking dogs reach their potential.

I'd like to share information on periodization training as a sample of the information presented during the two-day summit. Hopefully you'll find it interesting and possibly consider incorporating the concept into your training program, in turn helping you gain a performance edge with your own dogs.

Periodization training is a concept developed by Dr. Arleigh Reynolds, Purina's Senior Research Scientist, over the past 12 years in elite sprint sled dog racers.

Periodized training in elite human athletes sparked the idea of applying periodization principles to sled dogs and can be used to train our hardworking contest dogs and hunting dogs, as well.

The concept focuses on performance goals and how to optimize and restructure muscle systems using nutrition and conditioning periodization. It involves manipulating training variables to maximize capacity and performance.

The training stages used in periodization are:

* Foundation--Building an aerobic base over 16 to 20 weeks using long slow distance (LSD) training, such as free running and swimming, and incorporating high intensity work after four to eight weeks.

* Preparation--Moderate volume/higher intensity work from 12 to 16 weeks that includes road working, LSD running, and short, intense sprint races.

* Specialization--High speed short interval runs, a few pace runs with sharp decrease in volume and an increase in intensity of work between events, allowing time for mental and physical recovery.

* Recovery--Dogs should have fun and stay active with nonspecific activities such as free play, free walking in groups of dogs and obedience training.

Dr. Reynolds explains: "You have to look at what a dog is capable of and slowly increase or alter the conditioning stimulus over time, giving adequate periods of rest for recovery between sessions." This builds muscles and red blood cells and ultimately increases cardiac output.

As with humans, periodization had phenomenal success in sled dogs, boosting their performance and keeping the racers free of injuries throughout training and competition. Prior to using periodized conditioning, Dr. Reynolds realized that his dogs failed to develop the aerobic base they needed for competition. Gradually, as he introduced periodization, adding diverse and varied training, he began to notice performance changes in the dogs.

Dr. Reynolds advises trainers not to push dogs to the maximum every time they are worked. "The idea is to focus on different things and build on them. Start easy and increase slowly to optimize all muscle systems through adaptation and periodization."


During training, it takes four to eight weeks for a dog to adapt to a work stimulus. To continue making progress, you must introduce a new stimulus every four to eight weeks or performance will plateau. The goal is to continue the upward cycle while working toward a peak performance.

The two-day Sporting Dog Summit went on to include presentations by Jennell Appel, DVM, CCRT, on how Proper Conditioning Reduces Stress; Nutritional Priming Impacts Performance, by Brian Zanghi, PhD, Purina Research Nutritionist; and another on Understanding and Preventing Injuries by James Cook, DVM, PhD, DACVS, DACVSMR. These presentations were followed by a panel discussion with all of the presenting experts.


The bad news is, we do not have room to include all of these informative presentations within the scope of this article, but the good news is, by request you can receive an electronic file containing the full-color 5 2-page book, Achieving a Performance Edge, compliments of Nestle Purina.


To request an electronic file of this 52-page book, send an email to PurinaSportingDog@purina.nestle. com. Please be sure to include your name and allow up to one week to receive the publication by email.

For the overall safety and well-being of your dog, I encourage you to take advantage of Purina's offer. Whether your dog is an extreme athlete or casual hunting companion, you will benefit from this information.

And finally, my thanks to Barb Fawver, Purina Public Relations, for allowing me to "borrow" much of the above from a recent news release she wrote and distributed following the Summit.
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Title Annotation:Notes from the Field
Author:West, Bob
Publication:Gun Dog
Date:Jun 1, 2015
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