I often get asked, “is it really necessary to warm up my dog before starting class?”. The answer is always, yes! In fact, you should be prepared to warm up and cool down your dog each time you work him out.
A warm up does multiple things:
- Improves flexibility
- Increases blood flow to the muscles
- Increases the elasticity of ligaments
- Slowly increases the heart rate
We know it’s good for our dogs, so how do we do it?
Yes! A warm up can be as simple as a change of position. Asking your dog to perform a combination of position changes while stringing them together. A sequence such as, (sit – down – stand – down – stand – sit) or any combination of positions you like can be used here. The goal is to string them together, roughly six (this is one repetition) in a row and then repeat for a total of 3 sets.
This is an excellent total body warm up as it is working the dog in the transverse plane of movement. In other words, our dogs will be bending and rotating with this warm up. You can have your dog complete figure eights around two cones, two chairs, two flower pots, you can be creative with this.
If your dog doesn’t have a “wrap” behavior on cue, you can teach it using a technique known as luring. With a treat in your hand, place it in front of his nose and simply lure your dog around the object in a figure eight pattern. Once your dog has the idea, you can fade your hand and name this behavior, I call it wrap. Remember to keep things symmetrical, sometimes start with your dog on your left, on your right. The closer your wrapping objects are, the more engaged your dog’s spine is. You are not looking for speed here but a good trotting pace is ideal. Check out my blog on cavaletti poles for additional warm up ideas.
In an active stretch, the dog has no outside force to move a muscle group. Therefore the dog would be moving one muscle group to stretch another. Some examples would be, play bow (think downward dog), having your dog turn tight controlled circles on the flat, and or individual paw targeting. There are many more possibilities and if you have questions or need clarity, drop me an email.
Loose Leash Walking
Last but not least, a good old fashion loose leash walk can serve as a warm up. There is one rule, it must be a loose leash walk for at least five minutes. This is five sustained minutes of you and your dog walking with a purpose, not sniffing and checking out the local pee mail, nor dragging you to the agility field. Just a controlled paced walk.
The Cool Down
The cool down is equally as important as the warm up. A cool down allows your dog’s breathing, heart rate, and body temperature to decrease gradually. There are some studies (in humans) that adding a cool down into a workout routine reduces soreness and therefore downtime between workouts. In a cool down, you can perform passive stretches. Be sure to never force your dog into position, make sure they are relaxed and comfortable with you touching them with slight pressure. One of my favorites is, nose to shoulder, nose to rib cage, nose to hip. You can use a treat in your hand and lure this or use a nose touch. Each stretch will be held for 5 seconds and make sure the dog’s spine is in neutral position. Be sure to stretch both sides of the dog.
Now that you know the importance of a warm up and cool down, you’re prepared for a great workout with your buddy. If you find yourself wanting a specific fitness routine custom made for your dog contact me here. I am available for virtual consultations and if you’re local come see me. Let’s train!