The importance of warm up and cool down massage for athletic dogs.
I recently saw a poster advertising a human massage therapist. The heading read: Move Better, Feel Better. Like humans, this is exactly the same for our canine friends. While research showing the positive effects of warm up massage and massage after strenuous exercise has mostly focused on humans, there is supportive research for dog massaging as well. A research study conducted at the University of Alabama by J.E. Streiss studied muscle disorders in bird dogs and in dogs involved in tracking-obedience-protection training. Streiss concluded that warm up and cool down in training programs of canine athletes would aid in injury prevention.
Whether your dog is a weekend athlete or a competition level athlete, they benefit from massage before and after activity. A weekend hike or regular athletic activity such as a daily run, particular sport practice, or competition like flyball or agility do to canine athletes, their muscles, tendons and ligaments just like they do to humans when we do strenuous activity. Warming up and stretching beforehand and cooling down will reduce muscle tightness and soreness and risk of injury.
Warm up dog massaging and stretching increases circulation and flexibility. It can also locate tight muscles and sore spots. Massage can warm up and relax these areas. Often dogs competing in agility will have tense shoulders or neck is common, and also tight hamstrings. Pre-competition massage can improve their ability to clear bars of jumps and to better navigate the other obstacles( a -frame, weave poles).
Psychologically, massage can help promote an increase in motivation and posture or can calm a very excitable dog promoting better focus and attitude. Psychologically, dog massaging can have a positive effect on dogs’ performances in Agility Competitions. They can become more relaxed, focused and concentrated. Massage stimulates the release of endorphins, the body’s natural pain reliever and stress reducer. Anxiety is reduced with massage and gives your dog a feeling of well-being, increasing their confidence.
Dog Massaging for Agility Dogs
Two examples from my experience: At an agility trial a woman brought her young extremely excited golden retriever to me for a warm up massage. I concentrated on slow relaxing movement to warm up his muscles but also to calm him. The owner came back after his run and thanked me and said he was more focused and listened much better so his performance was much improved. At a herding event the owner of a Collietold me that after a massage treatment his dog was much more focused than he usually is when working sheep. Massage should be performed about up to an hour before an event. It is important to not let the dog cool off before the exercise.
Cool down massage, after exercise, promotes circulation which aids in the removal of toxic wastes from muscles. Massage relieves muscle tension and can also help prevent or decrease delayed onset muscle soreness, which can occur days after a workout. With a massage any swelling or tenderness can be located and can determine if the area can be iced or your need to seek veterinary attention. Massage is not a substitute for veterinary care. Massage also promotes relaxation.
- Dogs should be walked until physically cooled before doing a massage.
- Regular maintenance massage between activities or competitions can decrease risk of injury.