Warming up our dogs is important for dogs of every age – more important with our puppies and our senior dogs.
All senior dogs are the focus of this blog and we are looking at why it’s important to warm our senior dogs up and also how we can do it safely and effectively for the home for walks and for any other adventures you might have with your senior dogs – but the information will be useful with dogs of all ages!
Let’s look at warming up and why
When we warm up our dogs we are preparing their body for activity and exercise. This means that all of our dog’s body is ready for impact of landing, for sharp turns, for navigating various terrain and for doing any of the things that we might like to do with them from hikes and walks to dog sports like agility, tricks or Heelwork to music through to playing with a toy or jogging down the road.
Warming up our dogs can also help the body’s ability to prevent injuries and continued wear and tear as well as the ability to heal and return to its normal state after undertaking exercise. Have you ever felt sore later in the day or the next day after exercise? This can be where we have overstretched tendons or pulled muscles and the same can happen for our dogs.
As our dogs age the bodies natural ability to recover from activity and strain on the body will reduce gradually. Therefore, it’s important that we help our dogs protect their body in any way we can. Warming up before activity, any activity, is one of the easiest ways to help protect our dogs for longer and to keep the Mobile for more time.
But what does warming up actually do to help a dog?
Warming up will help several areas of the body such as;
Increased circulation around the body
Giving ligaments more movement
Increased blood flow and warmth to muscles
Allowing greater adaptation and suppleness to tendons
Enchanting overall movement
For older dogs these actions during warm up are even more important for us to do as they can also highlight if there is something not quite right with our dog before starting an activity. If you usually ask your dog to walk up the hall and back before going out the back step but you spot that they are walking with a hop or staggered when turning you can check them over as well as supporting them going down the back step. When we open the back door to let our dog out and let them get on with things we can miss so many signs that our dog is uncomfortable!
If you usually give your dog a little massage before doing something you may discover they have an area they don’t want touched, or that is warm etc. You can check your dog over in the home or by the car rather then going straight into activity that could then make it harder to help you dog.
Warming up doesn’t have to take long but can help us get to know our dog’s body better and enable us to spot an issue before it becomes an actual problem!!
Did you know dogs typically don’t stand and hold a leg up while howling for chronic pain? They may do this if they have a thrown in their paw or if they have collided with a dog they are playing with as these are types of acute, or temporary pain. With a chronic pain, such as inflammation around the joint, slipped tendons, tears in the ligaments etc dogs gradually worsen so they gradually adjust. They will shift their weight to the other side of the body or adjust how they get into a sit by twisting a hip etc. They don’t know that the change in comfort isn’t normal so they get on however they can.
By using time like warming up to really look at your dog and have your hands on them you can learn how they usually place their feet when cold or how their body feels. Changes in how they place their feet or new cold areas on the fur can indicate something is not right and you can potentially catch it and help before it becomes a big problem that requires repairing!! Dogs will change with age but they don’t have to age quickly – we can protect them even as seniors and even more when we start as adults or even as puppies!!
How can we ‘warm up our dogs’?
The most simple way to warm up our older dogs is to ask them to do a slow walk. If they have just got up from a nap and are going into the garden but there are steps, encourage them to follow you down the hall a little then back to the back door so they aren’t navigating steps with a cold body. If your dog have been in the car for 15 minutes travelling then help them out and ask them to walk / sniff about for a few minutes before heading from the car park into the woods for a run or into training classes for active movements.
If you have a very short walk to the local field and your dog will get to play with dogs, consider if they have enough time to warm up before play may begin? Could you cross the road and do a little extra slow walking before getting to the play area?
Hands On – Effleurage
Effleurage is used within Canine Massage, Galen Myotherapy and more and is a nice gentle way to help the circulation get going before exercise. It can be done in the home before doing something indoors or in the garden or can be done when out just before a walk etc.
For Effleurage we cup our hands so that only the edges of the hand and fingers are making contact rather than the whole hand and this helps us keep the level of pressure comfortable for our dog. Gently run your hand along your dog’s back from neck to shoulder, and as that hand is about to leave the body start the second hand on the same area. Each hand stroke move along the body a little more so you are covering everywhere and there is always at least one hand on your dog! Keep going around the whole back, sides, down the legs until you’ve come round to the other shoulder, include the front legs and the chest too! Your dog can stand, lay, sit etc for this.
We have a short video to help you with this here:
Create a mini version of an activity
Depending on what your dog is going to be doing, warming up should ideally mimic a little of the movement that will be happening to ensure the best areas of the body are being prepared.
For example, if you will be doing some garden agility you can help your dog warm up by guiding them to walk slowly around two chairs spaced a few feet apart in a figure of right to mimic the turns used, as well as setting up a few poles on the ground or even rolled up towels for your dog to step over to mimic the lifting and lowering of the legs.
If the activity your golden oldie will be doing is something good old play with you and a toy, such as tuggie, you can start with a light game of ‘chase the toy’ and move it to one side for your dog to follow but then turn and move it another way so they get to meander in various directions. However we don’t want sharp turns during a warm up so be careful to not just go left and right on repeat!
As a Certified Professional Canine Fitness Trainer and specialist with Senior Dog Training I am extremely passionate about guiding owners to help their Super Seniors get even more out of their amazing lives! It is absolutely possible to help older dogs keep moving for longer with minimal discomfort, as well as working the mind to help slow down the chances of cognitive issues (eg doggie dementia). We run online sessions and fun masterclasses giving you access to information, exercises and more to work with your Golden Oldie for more fun times together.
Our Trim in Ten short fitness sessions is opening in December to provide you with short 10 minute sessions to help your dog stay strong over the winter with exercise tutorials and numerous workouts plus there are some specifically to help dogs with Arthtitis too!
Contact us to find out how you can do even more to protect your dog, for now and for their future!
Dog Training for Essex & Suffolk
Super Senior Dog Club Facebook group
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