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  • Writer's pictureDr Sandra Hassett

Exercise and Your Dog: Warming Up and Cooling Down©

Updated: Jun 26, 2018

Copyright © 2018 by Dr Sandra Hassett BVSc, MBA, MIVCA, CCRT

We all know it is important to warm before and cool down after exercise. Well it’s the same for our dogs! This applies whether they are going to the park to play with their buddies and chase a ball, training or competing in canine sports or doing rehabilitation from injury. It is important that each exercise session follow some simple guidelines.

Warming up before exercise is important!

Why is it important?

1. Performance is enhanced: evidence suggests a 15% improvement in performance times in dogs who have been properly warmed up prior to sports such as fly ball and agility.

2. Risk of injury is reduced: warming up properly leads to increased blood flow, ensuring tissues are well oxygenated and more flexible.

3. Effect of micro-injury is reduced: cooling down properly ensures that lactic acid is removed from the tissues and that tendons, ligaments and muscles are returned to a relaxed state. This results in less stiffness and soreness post exercise – and less pain is always a good thing!

What is the best way to do it?

Firstly, here are a couple of scenarios to avoid:

1. You get home late but know you have to exercise the dog. Throw the dog in the car and drive to the park. Let them out and start throwing the ball or having them race around with their friends. Realise you are now running late for dinner so throw them back into the car and drive home, complaining on route that they are panting and drooling all over the car!

2. Leave the dog in the car or their crate whilst you walk the course or talk to your friends. Suddenly realise you are due to compete very soon. Grab the dog, rush to the ring and compete. Put the dog straight back into the car or crate whilst you discuss the performance with friends.

Here are a few simple rules to follow:

1. Take 5-10 minutes to warm up and the same to cool down. The more intense the activity the longer you need to take. By the time the warm up is finished your dog should look warmed up – increased heart rate, increased respiratory rate or panting lightly. By the time the cool down is finished your dog should look cooled down – heart rate approaching normal, no longer panting.

2. Warm up exercises should be active, cool down exercises should be passive. One easy way to remember this is Ante (before) = Active and Post (after) = Passive.

3. When warming up, replicate what you are going to ask your dog to do, but start at low intensity and build up. Afterwards, cool down by walking and gentle play until the heart and respiratory rates return to normal (minimal panting). Finish with gentle, passive stretches of 20-30 seconds each of the muscles that have been worked.

What are some good exercises and stretches?

For details on several of these exercises go to

Warm Up Exercises and Active Stretches

a. Walking and trotting

b. Zig-Zags and Figure 8s

c. Spins and Turns

d. Tug – high for the back legs, low for the front legs

e. Walking backwards

f. Walking sideways

g. Jumping on and off a low box or block (all 4 legs or just the front legs)

h. Rolling over

i. High 5s

j. Puppy push ups (stand-sit-stand; stand-down-stand etc)

Cool Down Exercises and Passive Stretches

a. Walking & trotting

b. Hip flexor stretches

c. Play bow

d. Say your prayers

e. Lateral stretches – nose to hip both sides

f. Lean into tug (hold the toy and go slowly with the dog if needed)

Time to cool down everyone!!



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