Canine and Handler Fitness

Staying in shape isn't about bench pressing 300 pounds or running five minute miles. We are not trying to be some super athlete, but we need to be in fair enough shape to do our jobs without being exhausted after a short period of time.


As police officers, physical fitness should be an important part of our lives.  When it comes to being a canine handler, it is even more important to stay in shape as well as keeping our canine partner in shape.  We have all seen the overweight or out of shape officers that struggle to run a couple hundred yards, and when they do they look like they need the paramedics.  As canine handlers, we cannot be like that.

There are numerous reasons to stay in shape, such as living a longer and healthier life.  Living a healthier life also means fewer visits to the doctor and fewer/lower doctor bills.  The same goes for our canine.  If we allow ourselves and/or our canine to get out of shape, we tend to not be as motivated to get out and do stuff, whether it is doing outdoor activities with the family or going out and actually looking for crime, which in my estimation is just being lazy.  Being lazy is easy, and if you are lazy all the time, it only gets worse.  In most law enforcement agencies, it isn’t an easy task to become part of the canine team.  Why throw away all the time, energy and hard work that you put into it by becoming lazy?  The same goes for every officer; you went through all that testing, stress, anxiety and frustration of trying to be an officer; why throw it away?  I know; we bust our butts, put our lives on the line and we deserve to be lazy outside of work.  Sure, we deserve the time to relax, get our minds off the job and have a lazy day here and there, but those lazy days shouldn’t be every day.

Staying in shape isn’t about bench pressing 300 pounds or running five minute miles.  We are not trying to be some super athlete, but we need to be in fair enough shape to do our jobs without being exhausted after a short period of time.  If you get in a foot pursuit, are you exhausted and want to quit chasing after a hundred yards? Two hundred yards?  If so, you should get yourself into the gym and start working on your cardio and stamina. 

Don’t think that doing weekly, bi-weekly or monthly training with your canine is enough to keep you or your canine in shape.  You need to be doing more than that.  You both need to stay active.  Go to an area where you can throw the ball, let your partner chase it and bring it back.  It is great exercise, but that doesn’t mean you should just stand there either.  Move around, run away and make your partner catch you.  Being a canine handler doesn’t mean you have to be serious all the time; make it fun for your partner.  Go jogging; it will be good for you both physically and for keeping that awesome canine/handler bond that is so important.  Have fun with it.  Where I live, there is a path along the river where we go walking or running, then stop for a short break for him to play in the water and cool off.  Then we get back to our exercise.  When I was a kid, I did a lot of running, but as an adult, it isn’t something I enjoy; I look at it as a necessary evil.

In my book, the worst time of year for trying to stay in shape is the winter.  Something about being out in freezing temperatures, running and sucking in that cold air and making your lungs hurt, just doesn’t sound appealing.  You have probably seen people out running with what looks like almost nothing on in 20 degree weather.  I know I have and thought they had a few screws loose.

I’m not sure what it is about playing in the snow that makes it so I don’t feel that frigid air coming into my lungs.  I’m sure it is the fact that I’m having fun, which is distracting me from negative aspects of being outside in the cold.  Find an area with a foot or so of snow and go play with your partner.  Trudging through that snow is great exercise for you both.  I know my canine loves playing in the snow.  Playing ball in the snow may end up with a lost ball, depending on your canines training.  A Frisbee isn’t a bad idea because it is more likely to skim across the top of the snow, but the cold temps may cause it to become brittle and break.  My canine loves going after thrown snow balls, and loves catching them even more.

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