Conditioning Program

A Conditioning Program Using the Cycle & Step Ladder Technique Incorporating Amino Acids, Complex Carbohydrates and Vitamin/ Mineral/Trace Elements

The Cycles:

This program is by no means entirely my own idea, but is one that I have used in the past with outstanding results. It consists of 5 separate cycles;

1. The Transition Cycle 1 Week
2. The Load Cycle 3 Weeks
3. The Recovery Cycle 1 Week
4. The Peak Cycle 3 Weeks
5. The Taper Cycle 1 Week
The Step Ladder

The Step Ladder allows us to work our dogs longer and harder, without rest days and without overworking them. This is achieved by allowing your dog what is termed “active rest”. By this, we mean that the dog is resting but is still doing a light workout. Steadiness is the key here, if your dog shows any sign of trouble then stop immediately, let your dog recover and start again. Step Ladder Example:

DAY Mon Tues Weds Thur Fri Sat Sun
EFFORT 100% 70% 60% 100% 70% 60% 60%
Gradually your dog’s 100% effort will increase with fitness.
Amino Acids, Complex Carbohydrates, Vitamin/Mineral/Trace Element Supplements. (Nutrient Mix)

The use of this nutrient mix plays a major part in this program. Complex carbohydrates give the dog the energy he requires whilst under stress and helps to prevent soreness in the muscles. Amino acids help in muscle development by aiding protein digestion and conversion. The quality of the food you use is vitally important. It needs to be fully balanced and not just high in proteins. There are many commercial brands available and some people still prefer to use their own ideas. I personally use a dried food called “Eukanuba Premium”, which can seem to be an expensive food, but less is used simply because of its high digestibility, so in the long run it balances out. It is a chicken based food with some of the best vitamin and mineral content available. This in itself removes the need to add supplements of this kind to the nutrient mix.


During this program you will be working and feeding your dog twice a day. In between this, we will be introducing the nutrient mix which consists of complex carbohydrates, amino acids and vitamin/mineral/trace element supplements.( n.b. Too much vitamins, etc can be just as bad as not enough – Take Care). For complex carbohydrates I use “Maxim” powder and for the amino acids “Aminobol” tablets, which I grind to a powder for mixing. All of these products should be available in your local Health Store, Chemist, etc. If you are having trouble obtaining supplies you local Gym/Health Club should be able to help. These products are gauged on body weight, so with a bit of basic mathematics you should be able to calculate how much to use for your dog.

The nutrient mix should be given to your dog about an hour before each workout and preferably on an empty stomach. So when your dog gets up in the morning to empty out, feed him the mix. Then an hour later work your dog. After the workout, cool him down with a gentle walk and give him a good rub down. After this, feed him half of his normal daily food and put him in his kennel or somewhere quiet where he won’t be disturbed. For the afternoon workout, allow your dog to empty out and feed them the nutrient mix one hour before the start of exercise. Once again, after the workout cool him down with a gentle walk and give him a rub down. You can then feed him the second half of his daily food and allow him to settle him down for the night. Try not to disturb the dog during these rest periods, as he needs to recover and build up his strength. Although this may seem a bit long-winded it becomes clearer as you get used to the routine. Routine and timing are very important and your dog will soon let you know when it is time to play.

The Transition Cycle ( 1 Week )
This part of the program is aimed at getting your dog used to working every day. The mileage you put in will depend on how much time you have and how capable you are. As long as the Step Ladder approach is used then the process should work. Easy walking is the only type of work done here, along with the nutrient mix and the feeding regime as described earlier.

The Load Cycle ( 3 Weeks )
This cycle will be the foundation for the hard building work that will come later. The type of work undertaken should be slow, long distance walking and trotting. There is no sprint work involved at this stage, as we are aiming to develop deep wind. If you don’t have access to an easy running slat mill (n.b. carpet mills are too hard to pull for this stage of work, but will be ideal for the Peak Cycle later on), then long easy bike rides or jogging will do just as well. The distances you cover are entirely up to you and your dog, though I suspect that you will tire before your dog does.

Step Ladder and Feeding stages are to be followed as discussed. A gradual increase in carbohydrates should be used in-line with an increase in the dogs workload. Care should be taken not to let your dog run too light, which ultimately comes down to knowing your dog. The actual time and effort you choose to put in at this stage will pay dividends later on in the tough Peak Cycle.

Recovery Cycle ( 1 Week )
For three full days completely rest your dog and stop feeding the carbohydrates. Allow your dog out, only to empty out and to feed. For the rest of the week, walk your dog a little more each time and reintroduce the carbs again.

Peak Cycle ( 3 Weeks )
In this cycle we use only high impact sprint and walk workouts. No long distance is needed, as by now your dog should have good deep wind ( from Load Cycle). What you are trying to do now is work on the dogs heart and lungs and their ability to recover after intense work. So on your bike or mill, have your dog run as fast as they can. As soon as they start to ease off, slow them down to a walking pace until they recover and are breathing easily again. Once they are, then off you go again, flat out then walking, flat out then walking. Step Ladder and Feeding regimes as usual during this period.

During this cycle, dogs can become very bored, as can their owners. Various forms of work can be undertaken, as long as the basic principles of what you’re trying to achieve are adhered to. The ‘A’ Frame can be used for a type of flat out and sprint then walk work. Having the dog chasing a ball up and down hills is another variation. Flirt work is a great fun for both you and your dog and the spring pole can be a great strength builder.

Taper Cycle ( 1 Week )
Now rest your dog for three full days, do no work and feed no carbohydrates. Then for the remaining four days, still no work, but reintroduce the carbs into your dog. If you have been doing this right, then your dog will be in the best condition that he could be. In finishing, I would just like to say that this program is offered merely as a guide. The amount of time you have available will dictate just how much work you can do with your dog. I do believe however, that greater results can be achieved by using this method.

One point I would like to stress, that was raised by Phil Craven-Lancaster, is to be careful when putting two or more dogs through this program on the same yard. Dogs that have been extremely tolerant with one another for years, can become extremely intolerant whilst undergoing conditioning.

The above article was penned by Barry from Kaos Kennels for the Bull Terrier Times magazine. KK dogs have proved themselves extremely successful in all UK athletic competitions during the 1990’s, specifically in the ‘A’ Frame and Weightpull events with KK’s “Blue” and KK’s “Sky”.

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