On a cold winter’s morning it is the dedicated pet parents getting up in the dark and cold taking their dogs for a walk or run that keep both parties happy and healthy, if not a bit grumpy on occasions when the warm bed is much more enticing than the cold, dark outdoors. The crisp morning air is refreshing and the puffs of condensation as you breathe a reminder of the coolness and your warmth.

With this picture in mind it would be great to consider our pooches and how they feel too. Getting straight out of bed and going for a sprint is not really our idea of fun, and we would feel a bit achy afterwards no doubt if we did this, no matter what time of the year and how cold or warm it may be. Athletes are trained to actively warm up prior to competition to increase blood flow to the muscles, increase heart rate, activate the muscle fibres and essentially prepare the body for a work out. Active warm ups reduce injury rates in humans, hence are encouraged even for example for tradies doing heavy work, not just athletes.

So what about our dogs? They have muscles and bones and physiology that works to make them function just as we do. So YES! Warm ups for our dogs prior to work outs are just as important for them as it is for us – they are canine athletes. Next time you are going to take your dog out for a crazy run with other dogs at the dog park or beach, or if you are an avid ball thrower (there is too much of a good thing, but that is another topic) then at least make sure they are warmed up first. Don’t get them straight out of bed, into the car and sprinting for the ball without a warm up. And yes this counts for chucking the ball in the back yard too, if you want to reduce the risk of injuring your dog, don’t do it! Walk your pooch for 3-5 minutes on lead and then trot them for another 3-5 minutes on lead before they are allowed to sprint around. Do an on-lead 5 minute walk/trot at the end of the sprint session to cool them down as well. This will greatly reduce their risk of injury and hopefully give them some more structured sniff and amble time which is great for their brains too.

Happy walking!