Warm Ups for Dog Sports

Warm Ups for Dog Sports (and other high intensity activities)

Warming up prior to exercise offers the following benefits:

  • Increases blood flow to muscles
  • Improves joint lubrication & mobility
  • Reduces muscle-tendon unit stiffness
  • Improves muscle elasticity
  • Gradually increases heart rate & body temperature 
  • Can help to improve performance
  • May help to reduce the risk of injuries during exercise

Canine fitness programs should gradually warm up the body without any additional activities required. For dog sports and higher intensity exercises outside of fitness programs, warm ups should involve fitness exercises that work the dog’s full body in the planes of movements used during their activity, while promoting active range of motion. The ideal duration of a warm up is 10 minutes or less to get the full benefits of warming up without fatiguing the dog, or them having a belly full of food before their activity. Please note this is a generalized warm-up concept. For a more specific warm-up routine tailored to your dog’s sport, strengths/weaknesses, and any other factors I highly recommend a customized program.  

Proper Warm Up Components

A proper warm-up for dogs should include a gradual intensity increase with the following components:

  1. Light Cardio
  2. Global Movements
  3. Active Range of Motion
  4. Sport-Specific Drills

Some of these components may have overlap, depending on the exercises chosen and the individual dog’s activity.

Ideally, warm-ups should be done ~5-10 minutes before the dog’s performance activity, with no more than 15 minutes between the warm-up and the activity.

 

Example Warm-Up Routine/Options

1. Light Cardio

Start with ~2-4 minutes of light cardio to gradually increase your dog’s heart rate and warm up their muscles. I like to start at a slow walk, and depending on the upcoming activity, gradually transition to a light trot.  

2. Global Movements

Exercises that work the dog’s entire body (front/trunk/hind) mimicking the movement patterns for their sport, in the planes of motion required for their sport. Most sports involve at least 1-2 out of 3 of the planes of motion. I typically suggest picking ~1-3 exercises, and doing ~1-2 sets of ~5 reps each.

Median Plane “Hip Flexion”

Median Plane “Hip Extension”

Transverse Plane

Dorsal Plane

3. Active Range of Motion (aROM)

Perform dynamic stretches that involve moving the dog’s body through an appropriate range of motion to promote joint mobility and allowing for the full length of the muscle to be utilizing during movement. I typically suggest picking ~1-3 exercises, which ensure mobility for the front-end, trunk, and hind-end and doing ~1-2 sets of ~5 reps each.

It is worth noting that pROM/static stretching should not be performed prior to exercise (even in humans) as it may impair muscle performance.

Front End

Trunk

Hind End

4. Sport Specific Drills

Incorporate drills that mimic the movements your dog will be doing during their activity. I recommend spending about ~1-5 minutes here, or however much time you have left in your ~8-10 minute warm up. Examples include:

  • Pivots
  • Cone Wrap
  • Weaving
  • Heel Work
  • Low Level Jumps

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