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Warm up and cool down


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Question for those of you that trial - what, if anything, do you do to warm up your dog before his run, and cool him down after? From what I've seen at the trials I've been to, the dog lies quietly at his handler's feet until it's time to run, then works like heck for upwards of 10 minutes, after which he either takes a turn exhausting for the next dog, or exhausts his own sheep then heads for the cooling tub. If it was a good run, he lies at his handler's feet for a while. If it was a bad run, he goes back to the truck.


Does anyone do anything more ritualistic vis a vis warm-up and cool-down routines? My 3.5 year-old male, Lou, who is an Open sheep and cattle dog, occasionally presents as somewhat stiff the day after a trial. He's been x-rayed and the vet has ruled out anything along the lines of dysplasia. He does show some mild arthitic development in one hip that likely is trauma-based (like a kick from a cow) rather than degenerative, according to the vet. His suggestion is to make sure to cool him down properly after he works.


I am, admittedly, from the dog sport world, and I warm up and cool down my agility dogs before/after each run - and those runs are far less strenuous than what one sees at a stockdog trial (maybe 30 seconds of running/barking for Wick, perhaps 50 seconds of loping for Bear). But what we do for warm-up is tugging (to stretch the neck and shoulders) and stupid dog tricks like weaving through my legs, to warm up the spine. Then we do some assisted stretching. For cool-down, the same, but less intense on the tugging. My Lou dog doesn't tug (nor do I think that it's venue-appropriate for stockdog trials) but I'd like to do *something* more than take him for a pee break before, and chain him to the truck after. Any suggestions?

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One thing you have to remember, and that is that the type of activity you see when an Open level dogs works, while strenuous, is both extremely natural and something he's bred to do (at least in theory). So, for instance, you'll see puppers doing the same wide circles, hard running, and twisty turny cutting horse moves, just for fun - while you'll very rarely see them jump, weave, and climb if given the choice.


The fact that most of these dogs can do exactly what you describe for many years without harm, is a testament to the careful selection for that abililty, of many generations. It's possible that "warming up" may benefit the working sheepdog but I've seen information on human atheletes that may indicate that extensive stretching prior to activities may actually be harmful. Cooling down, however, is always a good idea. Most handlers I know will have a quiet walk with their dogs both before and after their runs, and daily work always includes periods of quiet puttering around interspersed with the heavy stuff.

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