Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Agility warm-up Routines...or Rituals

I read a great article in Clean Run about warm-up routines with our dogs. This is a great subject, and something I take quite seriously, for me it can make or break a run - whether it be Agility or Obedience or any other dog sport really. It is more than just the physical, for me it is getting mentally ready too.

I sometimes see people ignoring their dogs in the warm-up area, or when they take them out of the crate, taking the dog out too soon, not moving them around, not engaging them physically or mentally - and the dogs get bored, or you've probably even seen dogs staring out at the ring and finding the equipment more rewarding than working with their handler in some instances. The warm-up is one of the things I look forward too, as much as putting my dog on the startline. I want to feel that connection with my dog, and know that their body and mind can handle what is coming up. It is all about balancing the quantity with the quality of warm-up.

All of my warm-up routines (dare I say rituals) include a physical and mental warm-up ... for both sides of the Team ... the dog and me. Because all of my dogs are different drive, focus and energy wise, I piece different elements together to create the best warm-up for each one, and it always changes. My rituals also vary given the venue, the weather, the class being run, and the time of day (1st run of the day vs. last class of the weekend), just to mention a few. But there are basics that never change.

I always do a pre-warm up usually half an hour before we run, which includes going for a potty and nice little walk and lots of trotting on leash - I let them wake up a bit - we might do a bit of heeling, sits and downs - nothing too much to get them overly excited, but to let them know that we are getting into work mode. Sometimes I take them together, but generally I take my guys out one a time for a bit more one-on-one time. Then it is time for me to being visualizing my run with each dog.

Sometimes (depending on the stress levels of the event, or if I feel the dog needs more from me to focus) I do 2 pre-warm ups - usually with Kaleb (but sometimes for all of them) :) I'll take him out again about 15 minutes before he runs and we boost the excitement level - from the time he is out of the crate, it is all about him. We run together, do some shadow handling, do lots of trotting, the treats and toys come out, we tug - away from the excitement of the ring if possible. I put him back while still excited knowing he is game to play in the ring in about 10 minutes.

I usually take the dogs out to the ring 3 - 7 dogs before they run, depending again on their energy, the class etc. Usually the 2nd pre-warm up :) indicates how I need to adjust those last 5-10 minutes before we hit the startline. Again, I am engaged with my dog the whole time from leaving the crate, talking, playing, moving around, doing some stretches, we will sometimes use our warm-up jump to practice a certain serpentine, jump angle, 270 or rear cross the course might have - again the warm-up jump has a purpose, it is NOT there to warm-up my dogs. I am!!!

I bring out a REALLY good toy and we tug and tug (Kaleb likes his tug and treat, Gyp likes sheepy tugs) - I get them high - but still focused, not just using up important energy reserves for no reason. If the class is delayed or moving slow, I'll put Kaleb away one more time and bring him out 1.5 dogs away from his run - he is warmed-up at this point. Just before we enter the ring we do a we bit of focus work, and we always run into ring ... it is the most exciting place on earth you know.

Then we leave the next 30 - 60 seconds in the ring up to the Agility gods ...

After I run each dog, I take a minute to get that run out of head - be it amazing or crap, I need a clean slate to focus for the next dog. I stick my headphones on, find a song for that dog (really I do), and then I begin the visualizing for the upcoming run with that dog. I warm-up that dog ...

then once again ...

we leave the next 30 - 60 seconds in the ring up to the Agility gods ...

thanks for reading :)

3 comments:

sweetpea_path said...

THANKS for this helpful post! As an agility beginner, this is a very good model to follow, but more importantly, to remember to do, for both canine AND human!

Sarah said...

glad you enjoyed it. this is just works for me and my guys, but if it gives you ideas that is great!!!!!

gussysmom said...

I so appreciate you sharing your tips. Gives me a lot of food for thought. Luna's song is Brown Eyed Girl. We use it for heeling cadence, relaxation and just for fun.