What kind of conditioning program is needed for herding sheep?

Yesterday I took Riley to a herding lesson.   This was our first lesson back after a couple years off.   So of course this got me thinking about what I need to change about his conditioning program.  What is different about how he uses his body and what do I need to do differently to keep him strong and free of injury?

Things I noticed.
1.      Riley likes to circle to the right and gives the sheep a little room going in that direction.
2.      Riley slices and dices when going to the left.  I had a really hard time getting a continuous circle to the left.  A few steps into a left hand circle he slices in instead of continuing and he was really tight against the sheep.
3.      Riley seems to use the length of his neck much more when herding.
4.      The ground is very uneven and Riley stumbled fairly often.
5.      Riley spent about half the time running and the other half at a trot.   (he was VERY excited to see sheep).

Special care to warm up before herding
1.      Tight and wide circles in both directions.  (changing speeds, walking, trotting and gallop)
2.      Weave through my legs to warm up spine and neck
3.      Nose to each shoulder, elbow, hip and knee.
4.      Range of motion in wrists and hocks
5.      Down to stand, stand to down, stationary and moving
6.      A few sprints and a some trotting
7.      Cool down, 1-6 in reverse bringing Riley's heart rate down and cooling down muscles before crating in the car and heading home

Exercises 3 days a week, and then change it up.
1.      Circling to the left around some cones
2.      Pinwheel jumps to the left (also to the right)
3.      Joint stabilization exercises using the balance disc, peanut and donuts (different levels of difficulty)
4.      Lateral movement
5.      Cavaletti training straight and in an arch in  both directions (see photo below.
6.      Stretching

Arched Cavaletties

This is my current plan that will be put into action today.  We are currently taking a break from agility in favor of herding.   It is important to watch your dog move and determine where they might have weakness or where they are most likely in need of better coordination.

This content originally appeared on Bobbie's Blog:
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