sport is very demanding on the musculoskeletal system. Agility
performed at a high level is
fast moving and quite intense. As much as we strategically
plan our approach to handle a course whether in practice or
in competition, we need to be prepared to improvise and make
split-second decisions on what to do and where to go. This
can put us in compromising positions. Our minds can do it.
Can our bodies? Conditioning is therefore a must for both the
handler and the canine partner.
a cardio-respiratory warm-up for both the handler
and canine athlete
- Increases blood flow to
active muscle tissue.
- Increases tissue temperature
which may allow more extensibility in the working
- Increases metabolic
- Prepares the body
for the subsequent workout or performance by stimulating
the neuromuscular system
- Improves overall function of the body which may allow
for more efficient and effective movement patterns
which ultimately could decrease the chance of
Increases motivation to "work." (Increase
of these sport specific demands, dog agility does not come
without risk. The occurrence of injury is high for both
the handlers and the dogs. Most injuries occur either from improper
use of the body over time (referred to as cumulative injury cycle
or from an acute event. If movements are inhibited or compromised
for one reason or another, it becomes difficult to have fluid,
sound and efficient movements on the field and we will unconsciously
start to compensate and create undesirable muscle imbalances
that could lead to pain and potentially long lay-offs.
worsen the scenario, most of us (along with our dogs) are “weekend
warriors,” which makes our odds for possible injuries even
greater. Couple that with the humans' chronic sitting behaviors
on and off the job, and we have created a fairly honest assessment
of our dilemma.
The general warm-up consists of movements that do not necessarily
have any movement specificity to the actual activity to be
performed. The general warm-up should take a minimum of 5 minutes.
It should start out with a light cardiovascular activity such
as mild play or through performing a sequence of exercises
that slowly allow the body tissues to adapt to increased workloads,
demands and stress. The warm-up response is an increase in
blood flow, an increase in the supply of oxygen and nutrition
throughout the body tissues and ultimately in an increase in
- Playing tug etc.
Remember, there needs to be a gradual buildup or progression
of intensity throughout the warm-up. Going too fast too soon
can be counterproductive to the team.
Many people design their stretching routine by watching how
others prepare for an event. Your routine should be individually
designed to address both you and your dog’s physical
condition (strengths and weaknesses). If you and/or your
dog have never had a structural or functional assessment,
be good to consult a physician, physical therapist or a
vet to gain the appropriate information with regards to
particular stretches you and/or your dog should or should
not do. Do not
attempt to perform stretches with yourself and/or with
your dog unless someone qualified has demonstrated them
Wide figure eight
- Tight figure eight
- Large circles R
- Large circles L
- Tight turns R
- Tight turns L
- Quick, short sprints
- Play bow
- Low jumps with R and L combinations
A specific warm-up consists of performing activities or “drills” that
closely mimic those movements that you and your dog will
be asked to perform on the agility field.
Always start with the less intense movements, wider turns and
lower jumps. Then progress to the more intense movements
with tighter turns and higher jumps.
Completing this full routine
allows both the dog and the handler
to gain smooth and rhythmical movement patterns before
performing challenging courses. The freedom of movement and improvement
of coordination will make the team more capable of navigating
through demanding obstacle sequences.
Allows the cardiovascular system to settle to lower
- Removal of waste by-products via the blood
- Decrease muscle “soreness”
- Relaxation/wind down
Immediately following physical and mental exertion should be
A cool-down provides the dog and handler with a smooth transition
from performance back to a resting state. Essentially, a
cool-down is the opposite of the warm-up. As mentioned before
find ourselves with major time constraints (in particular
when we compete with several dogs) and we have a tendency
the cool-down altogether. We often times end up crating our
dogs while we, the humans, will either rest in our chairs
or go and perform our volunteer duties. This is not to anyone’s
advantage. Both physiologically as well as psychologically
it is a far better option for the team to perform a 5 – 10
As part of the cool-down, while the muscles are still warm
and receptive to stretching, it is a prime time to perform
final stretches. This is where we can re-set the muscles
length-tension relationship and even improve the dog’s and handlers
ROM. Each stretch should be performed ideally for a minimum
of 30 seconds.
If we all take the time to properly prepare for each event,
we should not only reduce the risk of injury, but we should
be able to perform more consistently over multiple event weekends
and we should wake up Monday morning ready to take on another
week of work and practices.