You’ve seen athletes stretch and warm up before an event. You’ve been told in fitness classes that you should stretch and warm up before any workout. It stands to reason that dogs need to warm up too before any physical activity. Just like their human counterparts, dogs can and do sustain injuries during physical activities. A proper warm-up will help keep your dog safe.
Start with a slow walk, then slowly increase the speed. Spend about 10 minutes going from a slow walk to a trot. When your dog is comfortably trotting, slow down and start stretching.
These stretches must be gentle, slow and not forced. You should only stretch the body in a position that’s natural to your dog. Anything else could cause serious injury. If your dog shows pain at any time or if the stretch looks uncomfortable, stop immediately. Ask someone who knows how to show you if you aren’t certain you’re doing it right.
These leg stretches will mimic natural motion — don’t bend your dog any way that looks unnatural! Start with the front legs. Stand beside your dog next to the leg you’re going to stretch and face the same direction as your dog. Support your dog’s elbow underneath and hold your dog’s front leg. Push gently upward on the elbow. Stretch the leg to its full extension so that you are holding his leg out in front of him (and you). Then, put your hand on the front of his shoulder blade and bring the leg backward so that he has a slow stretch in the opposite direction. Release. Do this a few times. Then work the opposite front leg.
Now the back legs. Stand facing the back end of your dog. Take one of the back legs and use your hand to support your dog’s knee. Push gently on the hip so that your dog’s leg flexes backward. Now put your hand on your dog’s rear and move the leg so that it is in a natural forward position. Don’t force it; it won’t have quite the flex. Hold the stretch and then release. Do this a few times and then work the opposite back leg.
Once your dog is stretched, walk and then trot with him again. He’ll now be warmed up for whatever competition awaits.
Written by Margaret H. Bonham