Don't you just love how our dogs teach us so much? If you're anything like me, I find absolute delight in how dogs continually adapt and mould us to their needs. In a household where I have 4 highly active dogs in different life stages, the one thing I aim for is consistency. When it comes to their activity, I cannot compromise on consistency with warming up and stretching.
I have the opportunity to observe dogs in training and competition environments often, and have noticed a few quirks dogs have when starting a training session. The most entertaining one I've seen is the dogs that like to do a big back rub just before going out to do jumps and tunnels, or prior to an agility run. This often involves the dog lying prostrate on the ground, wriggling it's back to and fro, with a bunch of humans watching and laughing. While it's sports specific to Agility in most cases, this tells me that perhaps these dogs are pretty smart. In my understanding of dog behaviour, I believe they've figured out they're not quite warmed up enough to fully perform the twisting strength movements they're about to do - so they've taken their own method to get their spines warm enough. Clever!
Even at club training, or going out for cardio walks, warming up and stretching are the most important part of your dog's fitness program. There is a lot of human research into the effectiveness of warm up and stretching on performance, and many point to the results that low load gluteal muscle exercises enhance performance (Crow, J., 2012). Further studies support the fact that both active and passive stretching of warm muscle, tendon and ligament structures enhances recovery and builds to prevent injury. When I first added warm ups and stretching to my dog's training programs, I noticed an immediate difference to our sprint times. While learning handling and drilling skills added a lot, this additional layer of preparedness meant that my Papillon, Jaxon and I could be highly competitive against a field of Cocker Spaniels, Cavaliers and Shelties.
Engines on old 20th century cars had a "Choke button", which you had to pull out when the car started to ensure that the engine warmed up before driving. That was particularly true of racing cars of the era. Our dogs are the same - they need to warm up their muscles, tendons and ligaments before they're able to perform better, no matter the activity.
If you don't already have a good routine in place, I recommend getting one going. I've done the hard work for you! In the DogFit Conditioning & Performance Academy, you will find a free warm up and stretching guide to use as your foundation.
Know how to warm up your dog for your specific sport. My Monday Night Chats - Warm-ups Live is also available in the Academy or on the AgilityFit Facebook Page if you want to know more.
Learn more with the DogFit 30 Day Challenge or DogFit Foundations courses available on demand in the Academy.
Crow, Justin F; Buttifant, David; Kearny, Simon G; Low load exercises targeting the gluteal muscle group acutely enhance explosive power output in elite athletes; Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 26(2):438-442, February 2012.