Stretching is an excellent way to improve mobility and flexibility. However, a common worry when stretching your dog is the fear of stretching too far and hurting your dog.
A human can self-monitor a stretch, but can you always tell if your dog’s stretch has gone too far? This uncertainty can cause some stress in us humans!
Here are some current recommendations when executing healthy stretching for your dog:
Never stretch before doing exercises
– (unless it is part of a veterinary prescribed rehabilitation program).
Research available with humans shows that passive stretching before exercise increases the potential of soft tissue injuries.
It is believed that muscles store potential energy in their elastic fibres. If the muscle is stretched before an exercise movement, that potential energy is released and the energy of the muscle is decreased. Overly stretched muscles may cause soft tissue to be overly flexible. Flexibility detracts from the bracing activity of strength and control when executing an exercise movement. Strength and control are paramount for safety in exercise execution.
Flexibility may cause the body to become unstable in the surrounding joints that have been stretched. This may lead to potential injuries of soft tissue and joints while performing an exercise. Free or active stretching of your dog’s own accord can be included in your warm-up, but avoid passive stretches, where you stretch your dog’s limbs for him (unless prescribed, of course).
Stretch after exercise is completed.
Stretching may be super as part of your cool-down routine. Stretching after exercise assists normalising the length of the muscle fibres.
When the muscles contract repetitively during exercise, they may shorten or remain somewhat contracted. Stretching returns muscles to their baseline or normal length as they start to recover from exercise.
Stretching after exercise is a great way of assessing your dog after exercise. It will help point out any injuries your dog may have incurred.
If your dog resists a stretch they have previously been willing to, it may show an early injury.
At this stage, it is highly recommended to get a veterinary evaluation. If your dog is an athlete, a vet knowledgeable in Canine Sports Medicine is preferable.
Knowing the techniques and benefits for both active and passive stretching will help you choose the right one at the right time. Stretching, done correctly, is an invaluable part of your dog’s exercise program!
You can learn more about stretching, various stretching exercises and the differences between these stretching techniques at The Biokinetic K-9!