What Is Functional Training
Over the past few years, due to positive reinforcement based training having an effect on dog sports, there has been an awareness shift toward making that training more functional. Adding TTouch, Bowen Technique, massage, Reiki and other modalities led the way to using the same balance equipment that humans use to help our dogs develop the balance, coordination, body awareness and core strength they need to not only excel at their sport but to reduce injury.
Along with the manufacturers and marketers of tools for handling dog walking skills and reactivity are those who are building tools for use in canine fitness and training. Peanuts, donuts, paw pads, exercise balls, balance pads, treadmills, and many more have entered the dog training arena over the past couple of years.
Sports that are embracing functional training are agility, musical freestyle, and many others where positive reinforcement methods are making huge inroads in the way the winning dogs are being trained. Even the service and guide dog industries are embracing not only positive reinforcement based methodologies but also functional training. Unlike the human field of functional training, in dog training there is no controversy. Functional training started as a way to include balance and coordination and evolved to assist in handling reactivity, injuries, anxiety and much more.
As one begins to explore the concept of functional training for sport, keep an open mind about how and this can also be used for our companion and pet dogs. Think of your training as a vehicle to improve life, not just to improve performance. Current training programs are mostly geared built around actions that occur in the designated sport. But functional training can do the same job by working behaviors and fitness exercises do not occur in sport but do occur in the life a dog leads in the alien world we’ve created. The key is to design a training program that truly prepares a dog for living life easily, functionally and with minimal injury. This can be done only by using exercises that train the muscles the same way they are used in sport, in other words, functional training.
Skill-Related Components of Functional Training
When looking at human Functional Training, the following six areas are considered the important skills of Functional Training.
Speed is the ability to move quickly. Speed and reaction time are closely related but speed is more about continuous fast motion and doesn’t require the need to react to stimuli the way reaction speed does. Speed is essential in many sports. Some sports, such as agility and fly ball, require speed in most components of the sport. Other sports, such as IPO, musical freestyle, obedience and Rally, only need such speed as to get through the objectives within a time period but control and competence in the activities are graded higher.
Reaction time is the time it takes for the dog to react to any particular stimulus. Reaction time always reminds me of the time when Micah wanted to work on top of the hot tub, which he loved, but didn’t realize the top had been blown off by the wind. When he discovered there was no top to land on, it appeared that he actually levitated himself and went all the way over the hot tub instead. Reaction time is about observation and being mindful of the environment. It can be enhanced and increased.
Agility is all about changing directions at speed. Agility by necessity involves balance, body awareness, environmental awareness, reaction time, awareness of and engagement with the human for direction, coordination, and speed. The training for agility should cover all that and instill in the dog the ability to change direction rapidly without a significant loss of speed, balance, or body control.
Power is many things including muscular strength and the ability to exert that strength both in a slow controlled manner and at speed. Power is about the speed at which work is performed. Strength, acceleration, and speed are essential for power.
Balance means not falling down. Balance means controlled movement and static behaviors that maintain equilibrium. Balance generally comes from core strength, body awareness and muscle coordination.
Coordination is the ability to move and use different parts of the body together smoothly and efficiently.
As mostly a pet dog trainer, I would change this list to:
- · Balance
- · Coordination
- · Reaction time
- · Body awareness
- · Environmental awareness
- · Core strength
When dealing with those sports requiring agility I would add:
- · Rear end awareness
- · Confidence
- · Movement in balance
- · Engagement