While a day at the spa can be fun and relaxing, for your older dogs, it can sometimes be tiring to stand up for a fancy haircut that takes a couple of hours. As our animals age, their bodies could use some extra help getting proper stretches and gentle workouts in. The more we can turn our petting time into muscle stretching time, the better your pet will feel!
Did you know that regular stretching helps:
Increase your range of motion in the joints
Improve blood circulation & posture
Alleviate muscular tension throughout the body
In addition, it enhances your athletic performance and may reduce the risk of injury.
(These things all ring true for humans as well!)
Dogs have a natural instinct to sprawl out in that famous downward dog pose and give all their muscles a good stretch before starting their day.
But sometimes they could use some extra help!
*Keep in mind before starting, stretches should be done gently and slowly to ensure they are well tolerated by your dog. If you are unsure of how to stretch your dog, please contact your veterinarian.
Here are some moves from Animal Wellness that you can use on your dog to help get them feeling nice and loose:
Stretching the hip flexors
The hip flexors are muscles that allow your dog to move his legs and hips while walking, trotting or running. To stretch the hip flexors, ask your dog to stand, and grasp a back leg above the knee. Gently and slowly move the leg back straight out behind your dog’s body. When you reach a point of resistance, where further extension would require applying pressure, hold the leg in position for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat this stretch two or three times with each back leg.
Benefits your dog will receive from this stretch include increased movement and flexibility in the hips and spine, improved conditioning of the lower back, hip and leg muscles, and a reduction in arthritis-related discomfort and pain.
Stretching the shoulder flexors
Shoulder flexors enable smooth movement and proper use of your dog’s front legs. To stretch them, have your dog stand and grasp a front leg above the elbow. Place your other hand under the elbow to stabilize it, and gently move the leg forward (imagine you’re teaching your dog do a “high five”). At the point of resistance, hold the position for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat two or three times with each front leg.
Not only does this stretch improve the integrity of the dog’s shoulder structure, it also benefits the wrists and elbows, and increases his breathing capacity by loosening his chest muscles.
Stretching the back
This stretch requires a few training treats. With your dog standing, position yourself to one side of her and move the treat slowly in the direction of her tail, encouraging her to follow it with her eyes – turning only her head. This will require her to bend her body into a “C” shape. Hold her in this position for 15 to 30 seconds, then step to her other side and repeat the exercise. Do two or three stretches on each side.
After you’ve stretched your dog’s back, he’ll really enjoy a sacrum and back rub. The sacrum is the area in front of the base of the tail, between the hipbones. Using light pressure and circular movements, massage the hard flat surface of the sacrum. Move your hands slowly up your dog’s spine and back, using gentle massage strokes.
Regular sacrum and back rubs decrease anxiety, increase the flow of spinal fluid, enhance mobility in the hips and spine, and help bring your dog’s body into balance.
Stretching the chest
Here’s one more stretch to try. The muscles in your dog’s chest undergo a great deal of strain from day to day. This exercise is called an abduction stretch, meaning a stretch away from center. With your dog standing, grasp one front leg near the wrist and gently open it out to the side. Hold for several seconds and release. Repeat with the other front leg.
You can also do this stretch while your dog is lying on his back, if he is comfortable doing so. Grasp both front legs near the wrists and gently open them out to the side. Hold for several seconds, release and repeat. Since your dog may also expect a chest or tummy rub (he’s on his back, after all!), you can relax him further by giving a gentle chest massage using light pressure and circular strokes.
Regular stretching not only helps keep your dog’s muscles supple and flexible; it also boosts circulation, increases oxygenation and hydration, produces a calm and contented feeling, and enhances the bond you share with him.
Limbered up and ready for a groom? Give us a call at 847.247.4809 or visit us online to book your next appointment!