STEP 3: True conditioning
Now is the time that we start to crank up the miles and build from what we have done earlier. You may notice at this point that your dog no longer gets tired from his usual routine and his energy levels seem higher. In this phase our target is to build muscle, cardiovascular supply, and endurance. In this step you may increase your dog’s food intake but be careful NOT to overfeed. Only increase the food if you think your pup is getting too lean. On a good day of upland hunting you may be in the field anywhere from 3-6 hours, we need him ready for such days. This phase consists of 4-6 workouts per week ranging from 45-60 minutes. These days will be broken into 2-3 speed training days, and 2-3 conditioning days. Speed days look to build muscle, and conditioning days look to build endurance.
You can still do your usual 20 minute routine as before but now we add in more time, and more speed drills. I like to do speed drills in the middle of a workout. A dog that is not warm will pull a muscle and a dog too tired will blow a ligament. After a 10-15 minute warm up, in the middle of a workout do 10-15 minutes of all out throwing bumpers. This is what some trainers call ‘fun bumpers.’ I throw as fast and far as possible. When my dog gets back at heel I immediately throw and send him. Trust me, your pup will be gassed in 15 minutes, and so will your arm. This is speed training. Slowly increase speed training until you can do this for 20-30 minutes. After the ‘fun bumper’ session continue with conditioning for another 15 minutes.
Conditioning days are simple, keep your dogs pace and heart rate up for at least 45-60 minutes, whatever you need to do it. Just be careful of heat, and be sure to give water breaks ever 15 minutes. Some trainers like to use the term ‘roading for ultra conditioning. Roading is the use of trucks or ATV’s to condition dogs, and I neither recommend nor condone its use. Optional ways of ultra conditioning without roading is the concurrent use of swimming, bumpers, and jogging, in that order to minimize risk and optimize gains. The key is to gain 5-10% of the workout per week. Your dogs muscle will respond to the stress you put on it, it just takes time and consistency.