Cool down after agility competition

Post-exercise cool down massage

Why cool down? A cooling down routine is just as important as a warm up and is extremely important when it comes to ensuring that our dogs are injury-free.

The main purpose of the cool down is to promote recovery and return the body to a pre exercise level.

During strenuous exercise, the dog’s body will deal with a number of stressful processes, for example, micro tears within the muscle fibres which will cause swelling of the muscle tissues, causing pain. There will be a build-up of waste products which causes swelling and pain.  And there may also be damage to tendons and ligaments.

Physiological effects of cool down massage

A post-exercise cool down massage will assist the canine body with its repair process. From a physical perspective, a cool down massage will:

  • re-align muscle fibres to help with muscle function
  • elongate the muscles (as they shorten during heavy exercise) and return them to their pre-exercise state
  • help to remove waste products that have accumulated in the muscle fibres during exercise
  • encourage venous return and lymphatic drainage
  • promote the circulation of nutrient rich blood which aids muscle repair, caused by micro tears
  • allow the handler to detect any areas of injuries and trauma (heat, breakage) that may have occurred
  • help to reduce post stress stiffness
  • help the heart rate and breathing to gradually return towards resting levels

Psychological effects of cool down massage

A cool down massage will also have an effect on the dog from an emotional perspective. A cool down massage will stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (known as the ‘Rest and Restore’ or ‘Rest and Digest’ system). It will also help to prepare the dog’s muscles for the next exercise session. And finally, a cool down massage will help to reinforce the bond between the dog and the handler and establishes a positive connection with the activity, in addition to relaxing the dog and the handler.


  1. Aspinall, V., 2005. Essentials of Veterinary Anatomy and Physiology. London: Elsevier.
  2. com, 2001-2014. Warming up and cooling down for exercise. Available at:
  3. Robertson, J., Mead, A., 2013. Physical Therapy and Massage for the Dog. London: Manson Publishing Ltd.
  4. Walker, B., 2014. Injury prevention. Available at:

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