Nicky Grant Bsc Hons Physiotherapy, MSc Veterinary Physiotherapy, MCSP, ACPAT A, HCPC, RAMP

Here at the Win Clinic we are starting to get lots of enquires about how best to return our dogs to agility post lockdown. I will aim to answer some of these questions and offer some tips that will hopefully help.

Lockdown, furlough, social distancing, long overdue recognition of our NHS and key workers; these are all things that have become second nature in our thoughts and vocabulary over the last few months. Take yourself back 3 months; I don’t think any of us predicted we would be in the position we are in now.

It has been a time when I think a lot of people have reflected on their lives and become more present, thankful for the small things, the things that it is easy to take for granted in our busy lives. We have all missed the things we love, spending time with friends and family, going to the gym, eating out, and of course agility. The training days we had been looking forward to and competitions we had been gearing up for, all on hold. The anticipation of returning to agility is really exciting, but, we need to be careful that our dogs are ready, from both an emotional and physical perspective.

Here are my winning top tips for returning to agility:

Reflection and creating an action plan:

  • Divide a piece of paper in to half, on one side note down what you have done with your dog in the last 8 weeks, on the other half note down what you did with your dogs either, the six to eight weeks before lockdown or this time last year. Include things such as how long they were left alone, spending time with other people (dog walkers / other family members), agility training, fitness work, length and type of walks.
  •  On a separate piece of paper note down the key differences. Examples of these may be, less or more lead walking, less or more off- lead walking, no physio checks, no hydrotherapy, less or more specific fitness work, less time in the car etc

This should help highlight the things that you will need to consider moving out of lockdown, not just from a physical perspective but also from a behavioural perspective. These will be very individual to your circumstances but consider these and make a plan specific to your dog for easing them back to the norm.

Endurance work:

  • If your dog hasn’t been able to walk as much recently and you are safe to do so, start to incorporate some longer walks that are targeting the cardiorespiratory system. To target this system your dog needs to continuously move at a trot or a slow canter. I would suggest incorporating this in to a ‘normal walk’, so you would let them have a sniff and mooch and then do your ‘working’ part of the walk and then have a cool down and a mooch afterwards. You would aim to increase the duration of the ‘working’ section every week with an aim of getting to 25 minutes of your dog continuously trotting or cantering. The increments must be done slowly and should be based on how fit your dog was before.

Things to consider:

  • The temperature, it’s warming up, be mindful
  • The surface, consider road or grass and the impact this has on your dogs body from both a paw perspective and percussive perspective
  • Make sure you are confident that your dog is fully comfortable and that doing this is appropriate for you and your dog (this goes for all of the below).

Sprint work:

  • If your dog hasn’t been off lead for a while, add the off lead work back in slowly, again increasing the duration incrementally each week. After a few weeks or when you feel ready you want to aim to be doing some sprint shuttle runs, the distance and repetitions will depend on the size, breed and fitness of your dog. Try and do a wait and/or a release to a dead toy as opposed to chasing something. This will work on acceleration, strength and some cardiorespiratory elements as well.

Strength and flexibility work:

  • Add in some basic strength and flexibility work. Some basic sit to stands or down to stands will start to target your dog’s limb strength. The movement should be slow and controlled and the stance should be square. Some simple flexibility work could include some sitting paw touches to your hand to work on mobilising the shoulder region. This is also a strength exercise.

Look for symmetry of the movement between left and right. Another nice simple example would be a bow. Remember if your dog finds any of this hard, or shows you any signs they are finding it tough stop the exercises and contact your physiotherapist and talk it through.

  • When you are able to start training again, remember to take it slowly. Start your dog on low height and start with some simple skills; skills your dog is likely to succeed in and that won’t challenge them too much physically. Don’t be tempted to train for too long, even though it will be really fun to be back to it.
  • Remember to warm up and cool down appropriately, the warm up will be even more important now as your dog’s body won’t have done agility for some time. Remember warm ups are meant to replicate the activity you are going to do and primes the body for those movements. If you haven’t got a structured warm up in your skill set why not check out this link (click here WARM UP)  to our winning warm up video for all you need to know about how to WARM UP your dog for agility
  • Give your dogs a good few days in between training to give any soreness time to show, you want to be able to spot it so make sure you watch your dog move closely in between sessions.
  • When it is safe to do so, take your dog to see your regular physiotherapist for a musculo-skeletal health check. If it isn’t safe to do that then do a remote session with them, they can watch videos and do a lot via a virtual platform.

If you would like support and advice from us at the Win Clinic we are very excited to launch a wide variety of online packages to open up our expertise to people that aren’t local to us. More information coming soon on the online packages, keep an eye on our website for more information ( and follow us on face book to keep up to date with the launch special offers!

If you are looking for an INDIVIDUAL and STRUCTURED fitness program designed specifically for your dog with face to face remote sessions with a Win Clinic ACPAT and Chartered Physio, video analysis and much more you will want to keep an eye out for these exclusive packages.

Finally, please stay safe and remember…

★Good times are coming

★We are nearer the end than the beginning

★Be thankful for the small things and most importantly… be kind to each other, we have no idea what other people are going through x




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