A good warm up before the main course of exercise or other activity, even mental challenges, will reduce injuries and create great workouts every time. When one talks about a warm-up before exercise, one literally means warming the muscles. Your dogs warm up will increase body temperature, increase neural activation, warm up the joints, and get the nerves ready to go. Warmth decreases stiffness and increases blood flow to the muscle. It also directly reduces pain.

Don't assume that a few stretches or a short jog is enough to warm up all the muscle groups that you will be using in your dogs training period. Sports are demanding and need a proper warm up.

Some trainers promote active stretches, not static stretches, as acceptable for warm-ups. The term "active stretching" means the dog is doing the muscle stretching, not the person, such as the dog reaching forward for a treat, stretching his back. With active stretching, your dog is not likely to stretch beyond his capacity and you can still assist if you think s/he isn't stretching enough by raising criteria like you would do in training any behavior. Slow stretching should also include fast stretches like walking for at least five minutes; hand touches alternating sides so the dog has to bounce back and forth; left and right spins; flicks and finishes; anything that creates movement and flexing.

Cool Down

At the end of any exercise period you should have your dog do reduced exercise. This is called a "cool down." This cool down should ideally be a 5 minute slower pace of whatever exercises you were doing with your dog and is followed by 5 minutes of massage.

The primary goal in cooling down the body is to promote recovery of the muscles by allowing for dissipation of waste products, such as lactic acid. During exercise, the degree of cardiac output, which is how much blood the heart pumps through the body, is substantial. A cool down following exercise allows for the muscles to continue contracting, while the cardiac output gradually declines. This ultimately helps prevent blood pooling in the muscles and subsequent tightness.

The following is one way I cool my dogs down

  • Slow walk alternating with a slightly more brisk pace for 1 to 2 minutes
  • Tug for 2-3 minutes.
  • Chase the rabbit for one minute.
  • A minute of trotting and then walking.

Hydration, even during the cool down, is vital for both you and your dog. Water breaks should happen every mile or every 10 minutes but especially when your dog starts panting. Do not let your dog gulp the water down. Dogs are much better at pacing themselves with hydration than horses, but be alert.

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