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Strrrr-etching the Imagination

Warming up your dog in an ideal world

It's all well and good to say that you should warm up your dog before training or a competition but what does that rally mean - ten push ups in the exercise area or five miles of roadwork before you walk the course. Overall there seems to be more theory than action. Lesley Holmes and Lisa Peterson, however, have done more than talk about it. Though they're on other sides of the Atlantic, they independently devised exercise programmes that appear to be practical and easy to do. Your feedback could help to extend the jumping lives of many of our dogs.

Warm Up in Stages

Lesley Holmes is a Chartered Physiotherapist, not a dog trainer, but she has agreed to suggest some warm up exercises from the perspective of a physio. Using her first hand knowledge of agility, here is her advice which she hopes you will find helpful.

Warm-ups need to be sufficiently long to increase the dog’s core temperature. If you think about how we warm-up, we start gently and gradually increase the intensity.

I suggest that, in an ideal world: -

Stage 1 - Initially let the dog run free, to go to the toilet and smell around This is good, but not enough.

Stage 2 - Then encourage the dog to jog or run about at a moderate pace, ideally on a lead with the handler so the speed can be controlled,

Stage 3 - Then you can do some sprint work with the  dog by throwing a ball etc. If this is done too early, it would be like us doing a sprint exercise as a warm-up for a jog.

Stage 4 - Start to introduce turns, and change of directions

Stage 5 - Practice a jump, weave and a contact

Stage 6 - Entry the ring within ten minutes of completing warm-up

Stage 1-5 should probably take 15-20 minutes. We can all do stages 1-4 without any changes at the shows. As long as we can keep the dog warm, there can be half an hour between warm-up and entering the ring, so most of this is possible.

I appreciate the jump, weave and contacts are difficult, but it would be good to see it trialed at shows where there is enough space and see how people find it.

My Warm Up Program

Lisa Peterson, from the wilds of West Texas, is not a member of the medical profession - just an agility handler who enjoys running her Samoyeds and wants to keep them injury free! She didn't find anything on warming up on the net, but working with her vet, a canine masseuse and her 45+ year old football player husband, she's come up with some things that seem to help.

1) Walk the dog, starting with a slow stroll and building to a trot, for at least five minutes, longer if the dog has been crated or in the car for a long time or the weather is cold.

2) Teach the dog to work at the end of a leash, similar to a horse on a long line. Trot the dog at least three minutes in each direction.

3) Teach the dog to weave in and out of your legs, like a figure 8, in each direction. This helps warm up the back muscles.

4) Gently massage the large muscles of the thigh and the shoulder. Teach the dog to stretch or bow on command, and use this with the massage.

5) Do the warm up jump if you want to, although I cannot tell that it helps any after all the above is done.

6) Do not stretch or pull legs, or stand the dog on its forequarters, stretching out the rear. It is very easy to tear muscle fibers, and this is a good way to do it.

7) After the run, walk the dog cool before putting away. In the evening, check for heat in any joint and ice it. Gently massage the entire body, watching for tenderness. Ice is not likely to hurt any tender spot.

Keep in mind, I am not an expert on this, but some friends who are 'mushers' have also tried this regime and find that the dogs are not as weary at the end of the day.


From Nina White
I have just read the tips about warming up your dog and noted that advice was given not to stretch your dogs legs out. Obviously there are a lot of differing opinions about what is best, but I was advised differently by the physio who helped my dog go back to agility following an injury.

The warm up I do involves all that was mentioned but, at the end of the warm up, I gently turn my dogs head to each side - as if dog is trying to chase its tail - and then gently extend each foreleg five times. However, I was shown exactly how to do this by the physio, just a thought. I wondered what advice other people had been given? (14/11/02)


If you have some suggestions for an exercise programme for agility dogs, send them to Agilitynet. We'll share them with every one else to the benefit of the whole agility community.

For other articles on warming up, see:-


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