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Warming Up for Agility

Putting theory into practice

Paula Kingswood has been competing with her Border Terrier Dudley for nearly two years. They are sometimes known as 'the Mini entertainment' as their runs often end with Dudley firmly attached to Paula's ankle. After a routine visit to the Chiropractor turned in to a fairly lengthy period of treatment, she started to look for ways of prevention rather than cure. Surfing the Net extensively, she  found Canine Massage & Stretching: A Dog Owner's Manual by Kerstin Haase and Jorn Oleby and ordered it on the spot. The next day she saw the plea for reviewers on Agilitynet, contacted Agilitynet and volunteered to share her experiences.

When the eagerly awaited book turned up, I sat down to have a quick glance through and found it so fascinating that I read it cover to cover in one go. The format was so easy to read and the pictures were great.

When it came to the Massage section, however, I was so concerned about the warnings that doing it wrong could do more harm than good that I decided not to attempt that part of the book and quickly turned to the Stretching section.

The importance of warming up and warming down
After reading the section, I sat down and worked out a plan of what I was going to do with Dudley. I decided to start that afternoon during our weekly long walk with his mates. Reading the book it appears that quite a few problems could be prevented by properly warming up your dog before any exercise including a walk in the woods.

Injuries can be caused by letting dogs leap out of the car and tearing off in to the distance. I hadnít ever thought about this, but it makes perfect sense. After all, you donít see human athletes starting to run a race without warming up first, and this is exactly what Dudley was doing every time I took him out.

I decided that I would arrive ten minutes early and walk him on the lead until the others arrived. He thought I was mad just walking him up and down the car park and on the lead, too! Heís got used to it now and seems to accept it as part of the walk and doesnít try and drag me down the track to the main part of our walk until Iím ready to go.

Warming down after a walk is very important too and this is something that he seems to do naturally as he normally comes back and walks with me for the last five to ten minutes so I didnít bother with that but did spend ten minutes doing the stretching exercises from the book. The author also made it very clear that these exercises should be done after exercise and not before as the dogís muscles will be at the most stretchy and would, therefore, get the most benefit.

I did find that the pictures in the book made it look very easy and probably with a standard dog it is but to start with I found trying to get in the right position to do the stretching very awkward. Now I pop him into the back of the car so I donít have to bend down quite so far.

Results
Training nights used to consist of dragging him out of the car running up and down the school a couple of times then expecting him to start jumping straight away. I now get him out of the car ten minutes earlier and take him for a walk to the end of the lane and back.

Iíve been doing the exercises for nearly a month now and the benefits Iíve noticed are not really what I was expecting but are none the less welcome. I have found that he seems to have much more stamina at training. He used to start off flat out but get very tired and really need a lot of encouragement towards the end of the evening. but in the last couple of weeks he has been able to keep going for the whole hour and doesnít seem to struggle at all. This may be because he is getting fitter but Iím convinced the warming up and stretching has really helped towards his fitness and I will definitely be carrying on with it.

Iíve also decided to go on a course to learn some basic massaging so I can combine both disciplines.

About the author...
Although Paula Kingswood has grown up with dogs, she'd never had a terrier before and have found the challenge of training Dudley very rewarding but also very frustrating sometimes.

She started training with Mac Card at Sevenoaks nearly three years ago after completing their basic obedience class. They have also continued with obedience and she now instructs there. 

Paula and Dudley have had a few clear rounds and were very lucky to get one at their first show. She's really looking forward to a summer of competitions where she hopes to sort out our ankle biting problems and has just started training with her parent's Chinese Crested X Suzi.