Ever have one of those self-glorious moments when you have finally tired out your dog before they tired you out? Then, while you are stretching and cooling down, you start to feel guilty because you don’t know how to stretch your dog?
Feel guilty no more!!
The Healthy Way To Stretch Your Dog
There are simple stretches that you can do with your dog, including activity-specific stretching routines, that release tension in the hips, shoulders and back, returning the muscles to their natural length decreasing the probably of injuries.
But wait… Before you begin, you will need to know a few things…
“Please note the following precautions:
- “All dogs must be cleared by their veterinarian prior to beginning a stretching routine.
- “If your dog has, or if you suspect your dog may have, any of the following: hip/elbow dysplasia, patellar luxation, cruciate injury, behavioral concerns, pain, is less than 18 months old, is on medication, or has an acute injury, DO NOT stretch your dog before consulting your veterinarian.”
Unless you have taken a course in canine anatomy you probably don’t know what big words match what muscles, bones and joints in your dog’s body.
Don’t worry, we are happy to put the following terms into plain English for you. ☺
scapula: the big shoulder bone
stifle: the leg joint below the hip joint
Shoulder Extension, Straight Elbow (pages 59 & 61)
Keeping the leg straight with the shoulder, begin the stretch by reaching the elbow forward allowing it to straighten as the leg reaches forward. The scapula will naturally rotate beneath the stabilizing hand in the direction of the stretch. Continue to reach the leg forward until feeling a slight resistance. Hold for 30 seconds.
Shoulder Flexion, Straight Elbow (pages 62-64)
Shoulder Abduction (pages 65-69)
Why Do It?
These stretches keep your dog’s shoulder in place, conditions wrists and elbows, and stretches their chest muscles making it easier to breathe.
Straight Leg Stretch (pages 89-91)
Lift the hind leg into alignment with the hip joint. Stabilize the hip with one hand as you straighten the leg forward guiding the stifle to straighten. Stretch until you feel a slight resistance. Hold for 30 seconds.
Hip Extension Stretch (pages 85-87)
Hip Abduction (pages 92-95)
Why Do It?
Your dog will have increased flexibility in the hips and spine, it will condition muscles, and it can reduce pain and discomfort associated with arthritis conditions.
We call this the “Cookie Stretch,” and you will need your dog’s favorite treat for this stretch. While your dog is in a standing position, hold the “cookie” in front of your dogs nose and move it slowly in the direction of their tail, just turning their head. They will bend their body into a hook or “C” shape. Hold for 30 seconds.
Repeat this exercise on the opposite side. Hold for 30 seconds.
There is SO much more… Back Rotation, Spine Flexion, Neck Extension, even wrist stretches!
Want It All?
Check out the book, The Healthy Way to Stretch Your Dog – A Physical Therapy Approach,
You’ll find the skills you need to stretch your dog properly and safely, and increase the benefits of all that dog exercise!!
Sasha Foster, MSPT, CCRT is the founder of Canine Fitness Zone and the Executive Director of Clinical Services. She provides physical therapy and sports conditioning services at Colorado State Univeristy Vet Teaching Hospital. She recieved her Master’s Degree in Physical Therapy from Arcadia University in Glenside, PA, where she completed her thesis on strength training in the geriatric population. After treating human clients for ten years she began to study with Canine Rehabilitation Institute earning her canine rehabilitation therapist certificate in 2010. She is now a Canine Rehabilitation Institute faculty member teaching Therapist Module and Current Techniques in Pain Management while assisting with Introduction to Canine Rehabilitation, Canine Sports Module, and Canine Assistant Therapist Module.
Ashley Foster, BS, CPDT-KA, is the behavioral consultant for Canine Fitness Zone. Her goal is canine advocacy in all environments. Seeing the world through the eyes of a dog, Ashley designs the therapy clinics, teaches staff CFZ gentle-handling techniques and is available for behavioral consultations during treatments to help the animal can build a therapeutic relationship with the therapist. To add gentle handling into your animal integrative therapy practice contact Ashley at firstname.lastname@example.org.