To make it really brief, the musculature (ours as well as our dogs’) is made up of two categories: the deep muscles and superficial muscles..
The deep muscles (or short muscles)
Small and close to the joints, play a balancing role in the anatomy and maintain it in place. They are built and reinforced when we make slow and controlled movements. In human gymnastics, yoga and pilates are perfect examples of exercises that are suitable for deep muscle development, as is walking at a moderate pace.
The superficial muscles (or long muscles)
They have mainly a mobility role (dynamic and amplitude). They are larger muscles and are visible under the skin (therefore more distant from the joints).
The building of muscles, for an optimal result, must be done from the inside (deep muscles close to the joints) out (superficial muscles visible under the skin). Until our dog has reached physical maturity (12 to 24 months depending on the breed), it is important to focus on quiet activities, slow and controlled movements. Activities involving fast movements, racing or jumping should not be considered before adulthood.
Fetch games (throwing a toy again and again, expecting our dog to fetch it) are extremely physically (and emotionally) demanding and are therefore to be avoided throughout the life of our dog. Our role is to provide our dog with games that protect him from injury or fatigue and build him a healthy and serene life.
We need to remember that our dog’s skeleton does not include any clavicle. His spine is therefore connected to the scapula (upper bone of the front legs) by muscles and tendons only. It is therefore essential, before any physical activity, to allow our dog to warm up his musculature. Two options are available to us, either a 10 minute massage or a 10 minute quiet and slow walk.
Warming up option 1 : massage
A warm-up massage is done maximum 20 minutes before any physical activity. A second massage can be performed after the physical activity, in order to eliminate the different toxins from the body and to avoid muscular soreness due to the physical exercises (within 2 hours from the end of the physical activity).
Warming up option 2 : “gentle agility course”
We are obviously not talking about Agility which is an activity that includes jumps, propulsions and landings, at high speed. We are talking about a gentle walk, climbing a very gentle inclined plane, walking over ground bars or curving around tires 4 to 5 meters apart.
We will choose the obstacles carefully, depending on the physical condition of our dog. Are we talking about a young or an old dog, a sick or injured dog, a healthy dog in the prime of life?
Let us be aware of the evolution of our dogs’ physical condition. A dog does not become an “old dog” overnight. Just as an aging human, a dog will feel his muscles become less powerful and his joints become less flexible. Some discomfort, pain or illnesses may appear in the same way.
We can also “walk the course” with our dog: checking out the objects. He can analyze them with all his senses and get used to them. If our dog walks calmly, the leash can be long. If our dog is exited and walking too fast , a short leash is mandatory. If our dog has not learned to walk on a leash without pulling, we will teach him separately. A dog cannot learn to walk on a loose leash and do a gentle agility course at the same time – these need to be taught and learnt separately .
For a healthy dog, the course can be done twice. For all other dogs, once is enough.