9 Great Warm Up Games and Exercises for Your Dog
1. Walking – Every dog should be walked at least two to three minutes prior to starting activity. For more strenuous activities, walk longer and include some jogging toward the end. There is no better gait for overall exercise than a brisk walk.
2. Tug – Most dogs love to play tug, which is an excellent active-stretching whole-body muscle warmup.
3. Stand on Hind Legs – Use a treat to lure your dog to put his front feet up on a chair or stand and then reach for the cookie. This helps stretch his hips.
4. Bow – You may be able to use a treat to lure your dog down into the “bow” position from a stand; alternatively, some people “capture” this behavior and put it one cue. (This is done by “catching” the dog when he naturally performs a play bow in the middle of a game such as “chase me,” and using the click of a clicker or a verbal marker, such as the word “Yes!” when he bows, and then giving him a treat. When he starts offering the bow in hopes of getting a treat, add a verbal cue or hand signal, and continue to mark and reinforce the behavior, until he firmly associates the cue, the behavior, and a reward.) The bow provides a great stretch of the spine, hips, and shoulders.
5. Cookie Stretches – Another steal from the equine world (called “carrot stretches”), these are a dog favorite. Take a treat and ask the dog to reach around his body without moving his feet, stretching his spine and shoulders toward the treat. You want him to reach around his body. Don’t expect him to reach all the way to his hips on the first few stretches. Remember, this is a warmup. Do this to the left and to the right several times, rewarding him when he reaches for it by stretching his shoulders and neck around to the treat. Great for spinal stretching.
6. Puppy Gymnastics – Named because it involved the basic movements a dog learns as a puppy, it involves repeatedly asking the dog to sit, down, stand up, circle left, circle right – done multiple times. It’s a terrific warm-up exercise for the whole body that’s made all the more fun by rewarding the efforts every couple of moves.
7. Circle left/right – Many dogs are actually taught the words right and left with this game. Take a treat, say right, and lure your dog around in a tight circle to the right. Eventually, you may say “Right,” and he’ll spin right around. Repeat to the left. Builds flexibility.
8. Backing up – There are many ways to teach your dog to back up, but one of the simplest is to ask him to stand still and simply walk toward him. When he takes a step backward, immediately reward it (or click and reward). With repetition, you can eventually say, “Back,” and he’ll quickly back right up, which is a terrific warmup for the rear end muscles.
9. Side-stepping – Taught in a manner similar to backing up, this helps exercise helps warm up the glutes and hips.