Effects of Strengthening Exercises on New Zealand Police Dogs

New Zealand Police dogs are specifically bred and trained to perform a variety of tasks including drug detection, suspect apprehension, tracking, protection, search and rescue. These tasks require strength, balance and coordination. Therefore, the dogs must be physically fit to perform these duties and prevent injury. Unfortunately, police and military dogs are at increased risk of bone, joint, and tendon injuries and methods to reduce these injuries have not been established.

Our preliminary findings in 156 working New Zealand Police dogs indicate that 20% of the dogs have impaired function, another 15% have abnormal function, and another 36% have signs of inadequate fitness. We have designed a short (5-10 min) daily fitness routine to improve strength, balance and muscle mass in the dogs and will determine its effect on a pilot of 20 dogs with another 20 acting as controls over a 6-month period. The dogs will be examined pre-exercise and every 2 months thereafter. The handlers will be surveyed every 2-months to determine the effect of the exercise program on the dogs’ strength, function and injury rate. This pilot study will be used to obtain funding for a much larger group of police and military dogs to assess over a longer study period.

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