What would happen if a track star began their race without warming up their body first, or a concert pianist gave a performance without warming up their fingers on the keyboard? They would be setting themselves up to get physically hurt or give a performance that was less than stellar. Football players warm up before a game, dancers warm up before a performance, and vocalists warm up before singing. If we observe any person that is going to be doing ANYTHING that is taxing on their body or even their mind, they will have the greatest success if they warm up before they begin.
If warming up is so important for anything that is taxing on our body or our mind, this concept needs to be applied when taking our dogs out for a walk as well. All too often, owners struggle with their dog not wanting to walk at the same pace, move in the same direction, or even focus on us. The dog constantly pulls on the leash, weaves back and forth in front of us, or always has their nose to the ground, never recognizing who is at the other end of the leash. Dogs do this because they find their environment extremely enriching, and walking on a leash is taxing for many of them! Walking in a straight line goes against their natural rhythm and they need to be taught to walk in tandem with their owner. It’s akin to learning a new dance, where the dog is unaware of the moves.
Instead of heading outside directly from your house, warm up in an open space. This space can be inside your house, in a parking lot (my personal favorite), or a park. If you have a high energy dog, help them burn off some crazy energy first. Throw a ball or toy for your dog, use indoor stairs, or play a game of chase where THEY are chasing YOU. Better yet, have your dog chase some wonderful treats, then watch them run back to you for more! A long line (a 20 foot leash) is highly recommended, if heading outdoors. Lastly, some dogs simply need time to “sniff out” a new area and randomly explore. Take the lead from your dog and find a new open space in which to warm up with your dog before you begin to exercise their mind and body.