- Ben Character
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The process of preventing injuries to your sporting dog begins well before the hunt and doesn't just end there, but continues through to involve post-event care as well.
Well in advance of the hunt, actually even before the season opens, conditioning your dog will help avoid problems. The well conditioned dog runs longer, hunts harder, and finds game more effectively; but most of all they are better prepared physically for the stresses of the hunt and therefore able to avoid injury.
A short warm-up just prior to working your dog is like a conditioning refresher. It doesn't take the place of appropriate conditioning and adequate conditioning certainly cannot be accomplished in such a short time frame, but a 10- 20 minute warm-up period can remind a well conditioned body of its training and serve as a wake up call that work is about to begin.
The benefits of warm-ups before exercise are well documented. Pre-exercise controlled muscle use increases blood flow and cranks up energy metabolism. It also lubricates joints by mixing stagnant joint fluid and gearing up the synovium lining to make more. Tendons and ligaments may enjoy the most benefit as they are stretched and released in a controlled manner enabling them to withstand work stress with less likelihood of obtaining a tear.
When muscles, tendons, and joints are not allowed to warm-up they are simply not ready to undergo the stress that heavy workloads can place on them. Because of this, post-exercise soreness will increase due to the larger number and greater severity micro-muscle tears that will occur, ligaments and tendons are more likely to become sprained or strained, and joints will be less likely to handle the pounding they receive over the long-term.
The average hunting dog will experience some "warm up" simply by being excited to go hunting.
A few retrieves of the bumper before you leave the house. You can repeat this once again after you arrive at your hunting area, but before getting into the water.
If bumpers at the put-in are not possible, try simply having your dog heal next to you as you get out to launch the boat. This will get the blood moving and stimulate the muscles.
For bird dogs, sometimes nothing more than allowing them several minutes to walk around on a long lead instead of loading directly from the kennel into the box can provide a brief warm-up.
Just remember that the key for warm-up is controlled exercise introduction.
Just like the warm-up time, cool-down periods have their place in athletic care, especially for the dog that already has a chronic injury. These might be problems like a previous diagnosis of elbow dysplasia or an old tendon tear. For these dogs using ice after a work out can significantly decrease the discomfort, disuse, and subsequently the duration need to get back to 100%.
Icing cools the tissues decreasing blood flow so that the tissues to contract and swelling is minimized from the micro-tears incurred during exercises. It also works to decrease future micro-scaring and pain. For our dogs, a cold pack wrapped around the hock that has OCD or arthritis will respond much better the next day as compared to the hock that isn't given care or just hit with some sort of anti-inflammatory medication.
Ice packs can be used the same way you'd use them for your self. You can make a wrap out of them and train the dog to leave the wrap on. If you did this then you'd not have to actually stay with the dog during the treatment time. With a little training, an ACE bandage wrapped securely over the area with the pack applied to it should do the trick. The success of this, of course, varies depending the region of the body needing the wrap, since some areas just don't wrap well.
For those you will need to hold the pack on the needed area. This is a good time to sit and talk with a friend or if you can arrange to have a TV nearby you might catch the news while you ice your dog and get them ready to go again the next day.