Recently we’ve seen an increase in dogs who are suffering from hind end stiffness. Several of these dogs are swimming with us to keep from losing muscle mass in their rear – which is a good thing – but these dogs can also benefit from regular stretching and passive range of motion exercises.
Why stretch your dog?
Just like with humans, as dogs age, they become stiff and lose the ability to move as easily as when they were younger. While it helps to stretch the entire body, this article focuses on the area where we see the most problems – the hind end.
What are the types of stretches?
There are 4 common types of stretches – flexion, extension, abduction, and adduction.
- Flexion decreases the angle of the joint so the bones above and below the joint move closer together. In the photo below, the knee and ankle are being flexed.
- Extension is the opposite of flexion, increasing the angle so the bones move away from one another. The photo below shows a knee extension.
- Abduction moves the dog’s limb away from the midline of the body. The photo below shows hind leg abduction, stretching the muscles around the hip joint.
- Adduction is the opposite of abduction, and moves the limb toward the midline of the body. The photo below shows adduction on the rear leg, stretching the hip muscles. This movement is smaller than abduction.
Tips for stretching correctly
- Before stretching, make sure your dog’s muscles are warmed up, such as after a play session or brisk walk.
- Stretch slowly and gently just to the point of resistance. Never stretch beyond that point, otherwise you risk injuring your dog.
- When you reach the point of resistance, hold the stretch for 10 to 20 seconds.
- Repeat the sequence up to 3 times.
- When doing flexion and extension, always stretch in the natural plane of movement.
- On the hip joint you can use all 4 types of stretches.
- On the knee and ankle joints, use flexion and extension only.
Get in to a routine of regularly stretching your dog, and you’ll notice improvement in your dog’s ability to get up and move especially as he ages. You’ll also help to prevent injuries. Plus it’s a great way to spend quality time with your 4-legged best friend!