Assuming your dog is properly conditioned for the task at hand (if your dog isn’t physically fit, the warm-up alone could even be too much), we need to properly warm up our own and our dogs muscles so that we are ready to propel into action. Its is best to plan your warmup right before you set out for your run to keep your dog moving. This is because as soon as your dog stops moving, his/her muscles begin to cool and contract.
Research has repeatedly shown that warm up and cool down sessions improve athletic performance and reduce the risk of physical injury. A warm up revs up the cardiovascular system by raising the bodys temperature and increasing blood flow to muscles, and uniformly fires the motor neurons that control your muscles. We don't want our dogs to overindulge in activity that they aren't physically ready to perform.
Warm up routines should vary according to the level of exertion expected of your dog/s, and will also depend on the age of your dog and their orthopedic history.
You may wish to warm up by doing five to ten minutes of walking or slow jogging which you can gradually increase in pace once your dog has had a chance to sniff around and get any toilet stops out of the way. This will mean fewer stops and fewer injuries for your both later on.
We recommend utilising active stretches for your pre-run warmups. Active stretching means that your dog is doing the muscle stretching his/herself and is not being stretched by a handler. An example of this may be the dog reaching forward for a treat and stretching his/her back. Your dog isn’t likely to stretch beyond its comfort zone. A static stretch on the other hand, is when a handler/person stretches the dog’s muscles, such as by pulling gently on a hind leg. Static stretches can damage cold muscles and should only be used during the after-activity cool down.
Some other ideas you may wish to try for active stretching are:
Tug of war - This is an excellent active-stretching whole-body muscle warm-up
Position changes - Combinations of sits, downs and stands in a row
Figure 8's - Lure your dog around an object (i.e. cones) or with a toy in a figure 8 pattern. Vary which direction the dogs start. I.e. sometimes left through the center of the 8 and sometimes right through the center of the 8. The closer your dog is to the object/cones, the more your dog will work spinal flexibility.
After intensive exercise, cooling down correctly is just as important to your dog’s athletic health.
Some benefits of cool-down are:
Assistance to the body to eliminate toxins such as lactic acid. This consequently reduces the risk of stiffness after exercise.
Gives an opportunity to identify signs of injury quickly after an event.
Allows the heart rate to return to a resting level.
You may wish to:
Walk for 5-10 minutes on a loose lead or provide a gentle off-lead sniff. Since you are aiming for winding down this would need to involve no other stimulants such as other dogs, balls, toys or tuggy games.
Massage and stretching of major muscle groups – hold stretches for 5-15 seconds.
Read more about cooling down your dog correctly after exercise and how to ensure they have returned home safely after your running adventure.