Why warm up? A warming up routine is essential when embarking on any form of exercise, and including pre-exercise regimes as part of a ‘workout’ is just as important for our canine athletes as it is for those of the human variety.
The dog’s body needs to make a number of adjustments when undertaking any exercise. These include:
- increasing the breathing and heart rate
- increasing the energy-releasing reactions in the muscles
- promoting blood flow to the muscles to supply them with more oxygen and to remove waste products
The adjustments the body makes do not happen immediately and a few minutes is required to reach the necessary levels. Therefore, a warm up helps to encourage these adjustments to occur gradually – allowing the body to reach a specific level of readiness in order to undertake strenuous activity. Energetic exercise carried out by a dog which has cold muscles, joints, tendons etc, is ill-prepared for the demands being made of it, which may lead to injury and unnecessary fatigue.
A pre-exercise warm up massage is a an ideal way to prepare the canine athlete for an agility run, a fly ball dash, an obedience pose, or even a madcap game of ball chase – don’t forget companion dogs are athletes, too! It will help ease the body into making the adjustments for exertion as outlined above. A warm up massage will:
- increase blood flow to the muscles, which enhances the delivery of oxygen and nutrients
- warm up the muscles, which makes them more supple
- prepare the muscles for stretching
- increase the production of synovial fluid, thus increasing the range of motion at joints, reducing the risk of tearing muscles and ligaments
- prepare the joints for extreme ranges of flexion and extension
- prepare the heart for an increase in activity
- prepare the dog mentally for the upcoming exercise
- prime the nerve-to-muscle pathways to be ready for exercise, increasing the speed of nerve impulses
- prevent unnecessary stress and fatigue being placed on the muscles which can occur if exercising strenuously without a suitable warm-up
Physiological effects of warm up massage
Massage will stimulate your dog physically:
- Warms up the skeletal muscles.
- Stimulates the muscle fibres which are then able to contract faster.
- A warm muscle is able to extend further without tearing, thus injuries are avoided.
- Increases the blood supply which improves the delivery of oxygenated blood and improves waste elimination.
- Increases production of synovial fluid in the joints.
- Influences the nerve endings via passive movement (golgi tendon organs and muscle spindles).
- Nervous conduction starts to take place.
- The muscles are better prepared for extreme ranges of extension and flexion.
Psychological effects of warm up massage
Massage will also stimulate your dog mentally:
- Prepares the dog mentally for the activity ahead.
- Stimulates the sympathetic nervous system* which governs the fight/flight response.
- Allows a heightened awareness of all senses.
- The familiar routine prepares the dog and the activity about to be undertaken becomes a learned association.
* The sympathetic nervous system prepares the body for ‘fear, fight, flight’. The heart and respiratory rates increase. Blood vessels to skeletal muscles dilate. Bronchi and bronchioles dilate.
- Aspinall, V., 2005. Essentials of Veterinary Anatomy and Physiology. London: Elsevier.
- myDr.com, 2001-2014. Warming up and cooling down for exercise. Available at: http://www.mydr.com.au/sports-fitness/warming-up-and-cooling-down-for-exercise
- Robertson, J., Mead, A., 2013. Physical Therapy and Massage for the Dog. London: Manson Publishing Ltd.