Warming up, stretching and cooling down before and after exercise is just as important for dogs as it is for humans. It helps reduce the risk of injury and as an added bonus gives you a little bonding and training time too.
Sometimes when I am taking Biddy and Tristan for our morning jog, I am short on time and just go out there and hit it really quickly. I usually end up having to stop shortly after we start because my body is not quite ready to go yet (I am the one that is the most out of shape!). Even though we think dogs are ready to go all the time, a routine of warm up, stretch and cool down before and after exercise will reduce the risk of injury while you are working to keep your pet fit and is even more important if you are competing.
I am a big fan of Dr. Christine Zink, DVM and have summarized her warm up and stretching suggestions from a recent article in Clean Run.
Quick Warm Up 5 - 15 minutes of light walking gradually increasing our pace. For me, this is one loop around our block, and a chance for Biddy and Tristan to check their neighborhood mail! Once our muscles are warm, these Active Stretching exercise do double duty by stretching your dog, and getting him focused on you.
4 Easy and Fun Active Stretching Exercises
Play Tug: this stretches your dog's hamstring and groin muscles.
Cookies-at-the-Hip: lure your dog's head back to his hip area on both sides with a cookie. This stretches his muscles along the spine.
Paws-on-Chair: lure your dog's nose and head up while his front paws are balanced on an object the appropriate height for him. For medium or large dogs, about the height of a chair. For small dogs, a small box or stacked phone books. This is a great exercise for stretching your dog's back muscles, quadriceps (upper leg), and iliopsoas (lower back and hip).
Play Bow: this front end stretch focuses on the triceps and the weight bearing muscles on your dogs front piece.
Make sure you do these AFTER your warm up walk. After a good run or workout, cooling down is just as important. Slowly decrease your pace over a 10-15 minute period, all the way down to a relaxed walk for the last 5 minutes. After cooling down, if it was a strenuous workout, Passive Range of Motion (PROM) exercises are recommended. These consist of moving each limb through the normal range of motion, then flexing and extending. To be honest...I don't do these because I feel that our workouts are strenuous for me, but probably not that strenuous for my dogs, but maybe I need to try to work these in. I regularly practice cooling down and monitoring my dog's body temperature...but we haven't been to the PROM yet... Check our Dr. Zink's article with great photos and in depth instructions on how to prevent injury when exercising. I am a big fan! Do you have any warm up and stretching exercise you do with your dogs?