I want to remind the
readers that I am not an expert in dog training, dog racing, canine
health, canine growth, or canine nutrition. I will, however, be
glad to share with the reading public, the training program that helped
our borzoi to achieve the level of success that they have had.
I stated in Part I of
this race training series (European Borzoi Fall 2000 No 13 October –
December) that I would include borzoi, 7 months to 24 months, and would
cover agility, strength training, more speed training, and introduction
to racing. After re-evaluating how I want to approach this series, I
have decided to change the order. In this article, I will write
about, awareness, agility, strength, and speed and will concentrate on
the age group of 7 to 15 months old. The 7 to 15 month age group
is probably the most important period of your dogs training and
conditioning, and may shape the racing style of your borzoi for the rest
of its life. I cannot stress enough the importance of free play,
especially with other dogs of similar age and size, in developing
awareness, agility, strength, and speed. This is the single most
important part of your borzois training and social behavior.
Awareness of the body
At about 7 months old your borzoi puppy is still growing very fast.
Now is the time to teach balance and confidence in their body.
Believe it or not, many dogs are not very aware of their back legs or
what they (the back legs) are doing. You can help to make them aware of
their body. While you are spending personal time with your puppy,
touch their hips, tail, rear end, and back legs often. Use a long
strip of cloth to loosely wrap the rear legs a couple times a week for
½ hour periods. A couple times a week, take an old tee shirt and
put it on the dog from the back end. Place the tail through the
neck hole and the rear legs through the armholes. This is especially
helpful for puppies that are fearful and shy. This will help your puppy
to become fully aware of their body movement and gain awareness of what
its own body feels like. It is my belief that a dog, which is fully
aware of its own body, is a confident dog.
Free play is very important.
A dog that is aware of its body, and has been given some concentrated
agility exercises, might make the difference between a tragic collision
or an effortless leap over an obstacle or another dog. You may think
that with all the free play your puppy is doing, all the agility your
borzoi will need is being learned on his or her own. This is
partially true, but these tall lanky dogs can really benefit from some
additional training from you, the owner. Simple things, like going
up and down steps, are things that need to be practiced. Setting
up a solid table, between 50 and 60 cm high, and teaching your borzoi to
jump up on top and stack will also be very helpful.
While formal agility
sessions (the picture shows Ambassador’s father in a formal training
session) would be beneficial, they are not necessary to achieve results.
While on my daily walks, I look for obstacles that my ZoiBoyz can go
over, under, or on. I have them practice walking on narrow flat
surfaces, jumping over park benches, and going under fence wires. Let
your imagination set the challenges. After a while you will see
your borzoi take on each obstacle you give him or her with joy. The more
agility learned while young the better prepared they will be when they
DC Silkenswift Blaze of Chaos,LCM4, SC, SORC, SGRC (7-95) agility
With my first two
borzois, I used the forest as an agility training ground. I did this at
the age when the desire for them to wander far on their own was not yet
a problem. I would have them walk on, and jump over stacks of
lumber. They would dash around, not at high speed, among the trees
and learn to turn, zig, and zag. Once they got too fast, bold and too
confident in their abilities, we stopped this game. Beware; the
forest can be a dangerous place to play. Wild animals, hunters,
and a number of other pitfalls can be serious and dangerous problems.
Free play – again the single best possible exercise for your puppy, and
like in agility, your borzoi may benefit from some special exercises.
A lot of owners encourage their borzoi to stand up with their front legs
on their shoulders or chest. This is actually a very good exercise
for your borzoi. By learning to do it on command, you not only
control “jumping up” by your dog, but are doing two very excellent
exercises. These are stretching and strengthening the hindquarters.
Taking this one step further, I hang a sock, or some old cloth from
different heights in trees. It has become a game to leap up to bring
down the sock. These exercises will strengthen the loin, stomach
muscles, and rears legs. To aid in strengthening the front legs, neck and
chest, a game of “Tug-of-War” is a fun game. Again that sock (Race
Training part I), that they have come to love, is held while the puppy
tries to take it away. You must be careful to exert only enough
resistance to keep the dog from taking the sock. Pulling or jerking
the sock may cause damage to developing teeth or jaw. Let us not forget
Romashka's Aramis working those hind legs
One day you will watch your older borzoi puppy running and playing, and
then all of a sudden he or she will take off and run faster than you have
seen. I call this “finding turbo”. Borzoi are not fast
automatically. They have to learn to run at full speed in their
classic double suspension gallop. The borzoi is one of the rare breeds
that actually save a burst of speed for the kill. This feature can fool
the inexperienced lure operator. Not all sighthounds can do this.
Some borzoi never “find turbo”, but there are some things you can do
to help. If you follow the advice on awareness and agility you have
already increased your borzoi’s chance of finding turbo. They must
have confidence in their ability to control their body or they will not
– let it fly – so to speak.
Silkenswift Ambassador "finding Turbo!"
Along with the common
games like, throwing a ball or a frisbee, for our long nosed friends, one
of the best and safest ways to teach your borzoi to run fast is go to any
of the tracks or coursing sites and let them chase the lure in a
controlled setting. If your dog has become crazy about chasing that
sock of yours around, then the lure should make your dog interested very
quickly. I will address lure training in more depth in another article.
However, if at around 7 to 10 months old your borzoi shows interest in the
lure let him/her do some straight sprints of 100 to 150 meters long.
No more than two sprints in a session and they should be separated by at
least 1 hour. A warm up/cool down period is recommended before/after
each run. Warm up and cool down periods can be accomplished by brisk
walking for 10 to 15 minutes. Offer plenty of water. During
the warm up/cool down period pay close attention to the movement of your
dog. If you suspect stiffness or pain, DO NOT LET YOU DOG RUN.
Always be certain that your dog is pain free before any sort of race
training. If the dog connects pain to the race you may have a
difficult time developing a confident and willing racer. Sprint training
should be done no more than once per week. As your borzoi gets older
and stronger we will change the distance and path of the lure, but for now
be patient. One other thing I want to bring up at this point is
track type. If you are training on a sand track, be certain to wash
the feet, especially good around the cuticle of each toe, after each run.
Tiny sand particles can find there way into the nail and nail bed and can
develop into an infection. The grass track poses a different danger.
Stopping too quickly for any age borzoi, especially a young one, is very
hard on the leg and shoulder joints. A sand track is soft and
provides a cushion for the stop, but a grass track is hard and provides no
cushioning. On a grass track the lure operator should speed the lure ahead
before stopping so that the borzoi will see that it is stopped and plan
for his kill. A lure that is too close will cause the borzoi to
overshoot his target causing a too abrupt stop and turn for the dog.
Tom and Ambassador looking for the next obstacle
The bottom line to
remember is, training should never become stressful, painful, or boring.
Keep any sort of training fun, interesting, and challenging and you have a
good chance of bringing the best out of your trusted companion. The
better trained and prepared your potential racer is the better the chances
of reducing serious injury, on and off the track.
The ZoiBoyz Racing
Tom, KC, and the Boyz
Ouragan des Princes de Kazan
Silkenswift Bonne Chance