Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Do you stretch your dog?

I know a lot of my readers are dog owners, and a good number of those dog owners participate in dog sports, including flyball, agility, obedience, and freestyle. So, my question to you is: What, if any, stretches and/or activities make up your warm up routine?

So far, my warm up routine for my dogs includes:
Walk, for 2-5 minutes (doubles as a chance to potty before going in the ring)
Trot, circles around me, both directions, about 30 seconds each direction
Stretch up- Dog puts front legs up on me and stretches (partly on command, partly assisted by me)
Rear leg stretch- I sit down, have the dog stand in front of me, facing away from me, and gently, slowly stretch out first one, then the other, then both back legs, paying attention to any stiffness in the dog, reluctance to stretch, or tightness

That is my normal warm up routine with Pallo, which I try to complete before every race. Sometimes races sneak up on me though. We do at least try to get some walk/trot in before every race, even when time is short.

Our in-the-ring warm up (flyball has a one minute warm up time for the team) is a restrained recall over jumps, making sure Pallo's proper jump height is set (9"). If we have the time, we will sometimes run the full line up of dogs, or do a second warm up recall over jumps, depending both on the team, the time, and what amount/type of warm up the other dogs need.

After a race, I immediately take Pallo outside for a post-race potty walk, which gives him another chance to potty as well as giving his muscles a chance to cool down with a walk before he goes back into his crate to rest and wait for the next race.

Koira hasn't raced in a long time, but I plan to follow the same warm-up routine with her as I do with Pallo. Back when she first raced, it was my first time at a performance event running my own dog, so we never had anything more than a warm-up potty walk with her.

So, I ask again, what is your warm-up and/or cool-down routine? Does it change based on what sport you are doing, flooring, or weather? Do you or did you use a book to learn or remind you of what stretches to do or how to do them best?

Checking on Amazon, I was thinking of ordering one of these books to help learn a better warm up routine for my dogs. First up, The Healthy Way to Stretch Your Dog: A Physical Therapy Approach. It has decent reviews, but doesn't appear to be geared towards performance dogs. The second book is Stretch Your Dog Healthy: A Hands-On Approach to Natural Canine Care which is supposed to have good pictures, but again, not specifically geared toward canine athletes, and has a review suggesting that some of the stretches in the book may not be safe.

Then there are two more all-purpose books I am interested in getting and reading, which I believe include warm-up and cool-down stretches and routines. Both are written by Christine Zink, Peak Performance: Coaching the Canine Athlete and Jumping from A to Z: Teach Your Dog to Soar. Both of these are written specifically for canine athletes, but I don't know how much stretching is in these.

So, anyone read any of these books, and have a recommendation for or against them? Have a different book you think would fit the bill perfectly that you want to recommend?

I was going to attend a seminar about stretching and conditioning canine athletes, but due to lack of interest it was rescheduled for later in the year. I'm hoping I'll still be able to go then, and that it actually gets held this time!


  1. I have an intensive exercise regime....

    Up, down, up, down, up, down.....

    And then the other eyelid.

    Love and licks, Winnie

  2. Interesting books. I will need to check them out!

    Sophie gets really tight in her back legs. She is a pain to stretch because she just doesn't like her back legs being messed with. So we go to the chiropractor every 4-6 weeks which helps. I also try to give her a massage after racing/jumping.

    Before a race we walk around for a few mins, stretch ups (which usually result in scratches on me), make her bow to stretch out her back.

    Once in the ring, we do a restrained recall over jumps. First race of the day, she has to have a full run. The rest of the day it depends on if we have time for a full run or not.

    After a race, we take a walk around to stretch some more before she is re-crated.

  3. Yes at flyball we always warn up to avoid injuries.

    On the first race we make sure that the dogs are warmed up prior to going into the ring. We get a two minute warm up which is used to do run backs on the side we are running and at least one full team run to make sure we are on right with the changeover distances etc.

    Then a warm down afterwards.

  4. I have never stretched my dogs, but stretch my horse before a ride. I do give doggie massages though! I think my Broo stretches himself when he puts his paws on my chest to stretch :)

  5. It's funny, but Bailey always stretches, first front, then back. Katy not so much. He also has these strange Yoga poses. I have never seen a dog stretch like he does.

  6. I'm always a little hesitant to stretch them as I don't really know the point to stop like the owner of the body would know. I do more warm up exercises and massage.

  7. Before races (or practice), we walk for a few minutes, then trot circles like you do, and stretch ups. I also have him bend around to both sides, nose to hip. If I'm concerned about something, I'll stretch him vs him stretching himself, but that's mostly to check the status of things and whether he's willing to stretch.

    In the ring before the first race, a run-back and then a full run. After the first race, usually just a run back. We tug a LOT immediately before racing and in the ring, mostly to keep him occupied and channel his insanity so he doesn't lunge and scream, but it also works to keep him warmed up.

    After a race, I take him out and walk him until his panting has slowed/stopped.

    I have the Healthy Way to Stretch Your Dog book as well as Peak Performance. I've referenced the stretching book a few times, but haven't used it much. The Zink book I didn't find particularly useful either. I'd like to get my hands on her jumping book though and also on her Agility Advantage book. (Also: if you ever have the chance to see her speak- she's amazing.)

    Steve has been to two sports vets and both have encouraged the type of stretching where the dog controls the stretch (active stretching- bows, paws up on something, bending around toward a treat) vs stretching where you physically stretch the dog.