Ever get the feeling you are being watched?
At a recent agility trial I had a fellow competitor ask me if she could watch me as I was getting ready to go into the ring. (But of course!)
But I don’t stretch my dog before going into the ring….What?! (Then why did she want to observe?! ) I don’t stretch him, but I do move him around with a specific routine. So routine that he often goes into the next movement before I do!
In the human fitness world there has been much discussion about doing static stretches (holding a position for a specific length of time) versus dynamic stretches (stretching muscles while moving).
Whether you’re a human warming up before running a 5K or a dog getting ready to go attack an agility course, a good warm up should get the blood flowing and loosen the major muscle groups while moving the joints using an active range of motion. When warming up we want to actively move the toes, wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips and knees.
Some examples include:
- backing up
- weaving between the legs
- folding down/stand
You will see constant movement in these partial warm up routines from both Meg McCarthy and Bolt and SirPrize and me
(Note: these are not complete warm up routines)
A fitness instructor can help you design a customized warm up plan for your athlete.
This week’s FitPAWS conditioning challenge from Dr. Leslie Eide DVM at the The Total Canine: Veterinary Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine is one of my favorites (although, my list of favorites is quite long….and I love anything that uses a K9FITbone and a FitPAWS Donut/holder …. oh, and I like the paw pods too…. and the….. 🙂 Anyway, not only are you working the core, front, and rear, but the brain is getting a great workout too and it’s all while having fun and bonding with your dog! Does it get any better than that?
This weeks FitPAWS challenge by Leslie Eide DVM, CCRT, The Total Canine: Veterinary Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine, works on the core and rear muscles, balance, and body awareness by doing a tuck sit and kickback stand using the FitPAWS Giant Rocker Board…check it out!
*Notice how the dog’s rear tucks in by rotating his hips and then rotate to go back into the stand with minimal movement of the front feet.
“Lift with your legs, not your back! Tighten those core muscles!”
Think about when you have worked out with a personal trainer or if you have ever taken a kickboxing, pilates, yoga or cycle class. What is it that the instructor is frequently “barking” at you about? That’s right, form. They often want you to slow down your movements and focus on your form so that you get the most out of your workout in the safest way. The same goes for when we exercise our dogs.
Paying attention to your dog’s form during exercise is one of the most important aspects of canine conditioning. We watch body positions in order to avoid putting stress on the neck, spine, shoulders and/or hips. In general, we watch the dog for:
- Natural head position and neck relaxed
- Neutral back, no arching or roaching (depending on the breed- for example, we would not expect a greyhound to have a flat back)
- Foot position
We also watch our dog’s form so that we are engaging the proper muscles, getting the most out of the exercise, and safely executing the position.
For example, if I want to engage my dog’s core, hind limbs, and shoulder rotation when I am having my dog lie down, then I want to have them fold into the position with their feet planted in one spot. If they sit first and then walk their front legs forward until they are in a down position they not only put stress on their shoulders but they do not engage the muscles in the rear and core. (For more on the folding down, click here)
So remember, it’s not just about exercising your dog, it’s about getting the most out of the WAY you do it!
Fatigue: 1. cause to feel tired or exhausted. 2. tiredness, typically resulting from mental or physical exertion.
Just as our muscles get tired when we workout, so do our dog’s muscles when we exercise them. When doing strengthening exercises with your dog it is important to watch for fatigue.
The following are some things to look for in your dog as you train:
- can’t maintain proper position when they previously could
- repeated failures
- excessive panting or licking
- walking away or refusal to respond- in most cases, they are not being stubborn, they are tired
In this video, you’ll observe two dogs doing the same exercise with good form and what might happen when the dog starts to fatigue.
The sheltie starts out well with the folding downs but you’ll notice that he starts to move his front feet, is slower to go into position, and avoids going all the way down. To some people, the border collie may look like he is just being silly, or that he doesn’t know what I am asking for, but actually this is a sign that he is getting tired. The bottom line here: know your dog! You know them best!