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North American Working Airedale Terrier Association

TRAINING FOR THE ENDURANCE TEST (AD)

 

 

 

 

 

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TRAINER'S CORNER
This issue's guest columnist is the owner/trainer of the breed's first American Schutzhund III, and one of the most highly titled dogs of the breed anywhere:
CH Seneca Newcomer's Chance CD/TD, SchH III, IPO III, SAR certified.
 

At this point (June, 1996. In 1997, three more Airedales achieved their AD titles) I believe I am the only NAWATA member to have attempted and passed the Endurance Test. Lill (Devotion v.d. Laubenhaid CD. AD. SAR Certified) successfully passed this test in Buffalo NY in spring. 1990.

There were five dogs. Many of you know that Lill is a rather large dog (24 inches) and she has rather good reach both front and back. But to keep up with the pace (the German Shepherd's flying trot at 8-9 miles an hour). Lill often had to break into a run. Let there be no mistake, this is an endurance test! But because I had carefully conditioned her, she breezed through it and afterwards kept jumping the meter jump over and over when the other dogs had simply had it.

The judge rides along, watching all the dogs. If a dog shows obvious signs of stress such as limping or slowing down, the judge will stop the dog and examine it. At the judge's discretion, the dog may be excused from the test.

The Endurance Test is a rather different sort of event than what most trainers have experienced. It consists of determining whether your dog is able to work after having spent two hours traversing 12 miles with only two 15-minute rest periods. It is, in a way, a conformation test. Only dogs that have the proper structure will successfully complete this test. It will weed out any dogs that are too small or that have faulty, inefficient movement, Let us see why:

1. The Endurance Test is a timed test.
In order to cover 12 miles in 1.5 hours a dog must average 8 miles per hour. Most areas where these tests are conducted also have hills. To keep this pace uphill, dogs have to compensate on level ground by going faster.

This speed must be kept up for long periods of time. A dog with a short reach will simply tire unless he is in fabulous condition. This pace is tiring even for an Airedale with adequate reach. The judge watches for obvious signs of tiring, such as heavy panting or slowing down.

A heavy, cloddy dog will begin to have foot trouble. Stretches of the test will be on pavement or worse yet, crushed gravel. Feet are inspected at regular intervals. The judge also watches for limping or any kind of compensating for sore feet.

2. The Endurance Test tests endurance.
Unless you are yourself a marathon runner, most NAWATA members will not have experienced such intense exertion over a two-hour period, let alone put their dogs through it. Any kind of physical weakness in a dog comes out in this period of time.

It is not enough that the dog successfully completes this run. After everyone returns to the training field, the dog will be asked to do some work. In my case the dogs were required to do an extensive heeling pattern and also to jump the 1-meter jump. (The judge was the late Harald Hansch. a highly respected SV judge who was a world competitor in tracking). The point is, if his conformation is correct and his conditioning is good, the 12 mile excursion should not make such an impact on your dog as to snuff out his desire to work.

3. Preparing for the Endurance Test: Preliminaries
Having said that the Endurance Test is a conformation test, it is still important to condition yourself and your dog for this event. A dog that is poorly conditioned or that does not feel well will not present himself well and may create the impression of conformation faults that in fact are not really present. Also, the feet need to build up callouses.

Conditioning for this event should involve not only distance but interval training. The schedule is much like a runner preparing for an event. I will suggest a schedule a little later.

It is good to begin the training three to four months before the event. For the feet I recommend a product called "Pad Tuff'. This is available through Vet Vax 800-369-8297 for $2.95. Use this about once a day. There are other products out on the market but they leave stains or oil marks - most undesirable if your dog spends time in the house like mine do. Use the spray e.g. at night when the dog is more quiet and less likely to "run it off". This will toughen the pads - an old trick used by field dog trainers whose dogs spend hours running through rocks, briars and other hostile terrain.

Get a bicycle that is capable of maintaining a steady speed of 8 miles an hour even on hills. It should have all-terrain tires and be reasonably sturdy. Have a speedometer put on so that you know how fast you are going. (Note! Do not be foolish enough to try this test without a bicycle. None of you look to me like you are exactly marathon runners! ). If you are out of condition, get comfortable with the bike yourself for a week or so without involving the dog.

There is a knack toriding a bicycle with a dog. You want a very light weight leather lead - I like those thin ones offered by J and J Dog Sports that are 1/4 inch thick and 6 feet long. I like leather because it is kind to your hand and very strong for its size. Also leather does not tend to get tangled in the bike. Avoid web leads if possible, because they tangle easily and a tangled lead on a bike spells trouble and possible injury.

Take two or three weeks ahead of the training schedule to get comfortable with running a dog on the bike. The dog must also learn how to do this. Go to a quiet parking lot, perhaps a church or a school for this. Put the lead on the dog. Bring him up to the bike on the right hand side. Hold the lead in your right hand about six inches to a foot crumpled up and grip the handle bar. Make sure the lead does not wrap around the handle bar but remains crumpled up in your hand. This gives you a little of reserve lee way for turns, etc. Now invent a command, e.g. "bike!" and start off slowly in a straight line. Go 20-30 feet and then slowly stop, giving a command like "slow". This is a new experience for the dog and it may take a little while for him to gauge the speed of the bike. The heeling dog is suddenly on the "wrong" side for him and must learn to look in a new direction to gauge the bike. But a few sessions with lots of encouragement will do the job nicely. Give water and praise together, frequently. Carry a water bottle.

The next thing the dog must learn is turns. There are two ways to introduce the dog to turns. I give a command signal "turn" and start out with a very gradual turn to the left or to the right. For really sharp turns or about turns it is best to stop, get off the bike, reposition the dog and begin again. You are rather vulnerable while on a bike, and you don't want a situation where your dog causes you to lose your balance and your temper. Always slow down on turns as an added indicator to the dog that something different is about to happen.

Distractions must also be learned but this is better done when you can get some speed. I find that the best thing to do when a dog comes out is speed up. That causes your dog to have to concentrate and a little sprint is a good workout for him that day!

4. The Training Schedule: 14 weeks

In warm weather, always watch for heat distress in your dog. Carry drinking water and a bowl, plus a spray bottle or sponge to wet the underbelly and even inside the ear leather to help cool your dog by evaporation. The training schedule has two aspects - distance training and interval training. For distance training the distance is the important thing. If the dog shows signs of tiring, decrease the speed but maintain the distance. If necessary repeat this week at the recommended speed. For interval training it is the opposite. Speed is the important thing. If the dog gets tired. stop and rest, give water. Then continue at the proper speed. Again, it may be necessary to repeat a week. By week 12 the dog can easily pass the endurance test, but give yourself a little cushion in case the schedule is too severe early on. That way if it is necessary to repeat a week, you still have some slack.

Week 1: Begin by riding I mile every day with the dog. Do not work for speed -5--6 mph. Do this some days by riding laps around a parking lot. Other days take a relatively untraveled road and go 1/2 mile down the road, dismount and turn around, and go 1/2 mile back. Lots of praise.

Week 2: Monday, Wednesday, Friday: Distance Training-Ride 2 miles at about 6 mph. If possible use a country road, otherwise laps around a parking lot. Tuesday and Thursday: Interval training-Ride 1 mile at 8 mph.

Week 3: Monday, Wednesday. Friday: Distance Training- Ride 3 miles at about 6 mph. Same terrain. Tuesday and Thursday: Interval Training-Ride 1 mile at 9 mph.

Week 4: Monday, Wednesday, Friday: Distance Training-Ride 3 miles at about 6 - 7 mph. Tuesday and Thursday Interval Training-Ride 1 mile at 10 mph.

Week 5: Monday, Wednesday, Friday: Distance Training- Ride 1 miles at about 7 mph. Tuesday and Thursday: Interval Training-Ride 1 mile at 10 mph.

Week 6: Monday. Wednesday, Friday: Distance Training-Ride 5 miles at about 7 mph. Tuesday and Thursday: Interval Training-Ride 1 mile at 10 mph.

Week 7: Monday, Wednesday, Friday: Distance Training-Two days ride 5 miles at 7 mph. One day ride 3 miles at 8 mph.

Week 9: Monday, Wednesday, Friday: Distance Training-Two days ride 5 miles at 8 mph. One day ride 6 miles at 7 mph. Rest 15 minutes after the first 4 miles. Give water. Tuesday and Thursday: Interval Training-Ride 1 mile at 12 mph.

Week 10: Monday, Wednesday, Friday: Distance Training-Two days ride 6 miles at 8 mph. One day ride 7 miles at 8 mph. Rest 15 minutes after the first 4 miles. Give water. Tuesday and Thursday: Interval Training-Ride 1 mile at 12 mph.

Week 11: Monday, Wednesday, Friday: Distance Training-Two days ride 6 miles at 8 mph. One day ride 8 miles at 8 mph. Rest 15 minutes after the first 4 miles. Give water. Tuesday and Thursday: Intelval Training- Ride 1 mile at 12 mph.

Week 12: Monday, Wednesday, Friday: Distance Training-Two days nde 6 miles at 8 mph. One day ride 9 miles at 8 mph. Rest 15 minutes after the first 4 miles, 15 minutes after the next 4 miles. Give water. Tuesday and Thursday: Interval Training-Ride 1 mile at 12 mph.

Week 13: Monday, Wednesday. Friday: Distance Training-Two days nde 6 miles at 8 mph. One day ride 10 miles at 8 mph. Rest 15 minutes every four miles, give water. Tuesday and Thursday: Interval Training-Ride 1 mile at 12 mph.

Week 14: Up to week before test: Maintain week 13.

Week before test: Distance Training: 6 miles once at 8 mph about 5 days before test. Interval Training twice for 1 mile at 12 mph 6 and 4 days before test. Rest 3 days before test with a couple of 3-mile slow 6-7 mph rides just to keep limber.

Week of test: Take test and breeze through it!