Five Tips to Ensure an Adequate Warm Up and Cool Down When Time is Short

As a veterinarian and veteran of injuries to my own dogs, I try very hard to ensure a sufficient warm up and cool down for all my dogs at trials.  However, running 3-4 dogs within the same jump height often means my preferred pre-run routine gets compressed and modified at small shows.  Maybe you’ve found yourself in this situation, or you’ve simply been the inevitable victim of random chance and ended up first dog on the gate sheet.  Here are five tips that you can use to make sure your dog is ready to run if you end up short on time.

Be prepared before the walkthru

When the countdown starts is not the time to locate #1.  Know the order of the obstacles, and have a general handling plan ready to go.  Put a “mental sticky note” on any sequences where you are considering multiple handling options, and quickly run through those choices.  Sometimes cutting short your walkthru is the best option to give your dog adequate warm up time, so be ready.

Potty your dog prior to your walkthru

This seems logical, but wasting time begging Fluffy to potty when you know you need to be headed to the ring is not a good use of your limited time.  Take time when the prior jump height is running to let your dogs do their business.

Phone a friend

If you have a friend available, ask them to hold/walk one of your dogs after your run, while you are getting the next dog out and ready to go.  If this isn’t an option, you can be walking one dog to cool down at the same time you are walking the other to warm them up.  Then in the crate for contestant #1, and a longer cool down for everyone when the class is over.

Focus on what’s important

I’m a big believer that having the blood flowing and the muscles warmed up from simply walking and jogging is more important then any static stretching you might want to do prior to a run.  My abbreviated warmup mostly consists of my dog walking/trotting/jogging for 5 minutes.  I will start in straight lines, then add circles and figure 8s in both directions.  Then while I’m next to the ring waiting for my run, I try to do active stretching exercises.  Things like spinning to the right and left, standing on hind legs reaching for a treat, and weaving between your legs.  I may or may not use the warm up jump at all, but if I do, it’s not to get my dog physically ready to go, but for handling purposes.

Know your dog

If you have a dog with a previous injury, or just have a dog who is getting older, prioritize their particular issues.  My oldest Sheltie Trip had a whiplash-type injury to her neck several years ago.  I will still do a quick massage along her neck/back, along with static stretches of her neck, before every run, while standing at the gate.  For older dogs, and dogs like Ticket with an extensive injury history, taking them outside for a 10 minute walk periodically during the trial can help prevent getting overly stiff or tight in the crate.

These are a few of the things I do to try to keep my dogs healthy and ready to run.  I’ve been at shows where I’ve had as few as 2-3 dogs between my own, so being prepared is key.  What have you done when crunched for time to help your dog perform at his best?

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