Stretching Exercises for Your Dog

Regular stretching keeps your performance dog conditioned and ready to work or compete.


Routine stretching, especially before competition, is one of the most important habits to develop with a canine athlete. It’s particularly essential for dogs engaged in strenuous sports, such as disc dog, agility and flyball, which can put a great deal of stress on their bodies.

However, you must stretch your dog correctly. To lessen the likelihood of injury, err on the side of caution by not stretching the body too far.

Here are three stretches that can benefit all dogs, courtesy of Debbie Gross-Saunders of Colchester, Conn., a certified canine rehabilitation practitioner who is board-certified in orthopedic physical therapy for humans and has been working with animals for about 15 years. Saunders has a doctorate in human physical therapy and an advanced master’s degree in human orthopedic physical therapy.

Before performing the stretches, walk your dog, building to a trot over the course of five to 10 minutes, Saunders says. This activity should increase the dog’s heart rate by 40 to 60 percent.

Next come the stretches:

Hip flexors: These muscles allow the hip to contract when the dog trots or runs. With your dog standing, gently grasp one of his back legs above the knee and slowly move the leg back, so it’s extended straight out behind his body. When you feel resistance, hold the position for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat two or three times with each leg. If your dog appears to be in pain, have his hips examined by a veterinarian.

Shoulder flexors: With your dog standing, gently grasp a front leg above the elbow and move the leg forward, as if the dog was giving a high five. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, repeating two or three times with each front leg.

Back stretch: With the dog standing, use a treat to lure his head gently toward his tail. The dog’s body should bend in a C shape. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, repeating two or three times on each side.

You can stretch your dog in many ways. For some examples, check out Saunders’ Stretching the Performance Dog DVD (Clean Run Productions, 2005).


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Ric   Seattle, Washington

9/21/2014 7:34:50 PM

My dogs don't compete in anything.. except occasionally with one another.

However, every evening before we go outside for their last potty call, we do a little stretch.

Usually, they've been curled up on the bed asleep and come to me, rather than heading to the stool to get off the bed.

I stand them up on their hind legs and simply hold their fore paws up-- extended as far as they'll go without any pulling. It maybe just be to their heads or it may be higher.

We don't do anything but hold that position. As their muscles stretch out, their arms/fore legs & paws will go up over their heads. I don't pull on them, I merely help provide support and stability as they stand on the bed. The length of the stretch depends on how tight they were and if they needed to extend those fore paws more or not. If they were fine and their fore paws went right up over their heads, we might only hold it for about 15-20 seconds, then I let them down. If they were tighter, and little by little those front legs stretched upward, we do it until they're stretched out and then hold it for another 10-20 secs.

However, my girls do this every night... plus they stretch themselves all day. If your
aren't use to stretching like this, I'd go slow and don't expect them to get a full stretch the first time you try. Think of yourself if you haven't been exercising for a while.

Since they voluntarily come to me to do this, I have to assume it feels good to them. From what I can tell, we're getting a good stretch of all their muscles --from the back of the hind legs up through their sides, chest and backs and into the shoulders and forelegs.

Of course, these are small dogs (under 15 lbs) -- probably not as easily done with a larger, 40lb + dog..

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Jeff   Boston, Massachusetts

7/18/2013 1:52:41 PM

No offense, but in this day and age I was expecting a short video of each stretch or at least a couple of pictures. But given that the web site is called, a video is kind of expected.

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