I’ve referred to dogs before as athletes and as all good athletes know a warm up routine is vital. A good warm up will put heat into the muscles which makes them more pliable and allows them to stretch as joint movements are increased. This helps prevent injury. Human participants in any sport will spend time gradually increasing the amount of movement they do and the speed they use. A walk becomes brisker and then becomes a trot. Stride lengths are increased and then get faster. Directional changes are introduced to make sure all the muscles are used and then practice takes place of the event entered such as low jumps, or short throws to get the body ready for the main event. All this is usually done while wearing several layers of clothing which can be removed later.
So how does this apply to our pet dogs? Well, the reasons for warming up are the same. Injury prevention. Warm muscles tear less easily, and joint damage is reduced. Dogs tend not to wear clothes as they have fur but the temperature differences between a lovely warm house and the outside at this time of year means maybe they will benefit from a coat at least to start their walk. Old dogs in particular or those with stiff or arthritic joints can benefit from a coat. A quick massage can also help to stimulate the blood supply and warm up cold muscles. Dogs with sore hips or shoulders can be helped with a warm damp flannel placed over the affected area for a few minutes before going out. It has been found that warm damp heat is better than heat on its own. Once outdoors start slowly and increase speed gradually. A thirty minute walk should consist of 5 minutes walking at each end and 20 minutes of trotting or running. If you take your dog out in the car try to get in the habit of lead walking them from the car for 5 minutes before letting them off rather than opening the car and letting them run straight away. During the time they are on the lead practise sitting a few times, turning in circles and doing figures of 8. These will all warm up the joints and the side muscles. Dogs tend to incur most injuries while turning so these muscles are important to remember. Fetch games should be restricted to the time you know your dog is really warm.
These simple tips can help your dog be more comfortable and enjoy their walks for longer.
If your dog competes in events like agility and you’d like more detailed information relating to this please get in touch via the contact us page of my website