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STRETCHING YOUR DOG
The therapeutic benefits of stretching are well known to all people, either to simply improve flexibility or just for relaxation. Today, stretching exercises are part of any training or fitness exercise program, as well as part of physiotherapy or massage therapy programs. Because the physiological benefits of stretching upon the body are immediate, more and more people, regardless of age, are using stretching exercises at home or at play so in a natural way they contribute to their flexibility and overall fitness. Dogs also instinctively know how to stretch, doing it spontaneously, continually and naturally, tuning up the muscles they need most.
Stretching exercises done passively onto your dog are easily applied. Performed on their own, stretching exercises will complement your training program. Done during or after a massage session, stretching’s multi benefits will render your massage work that much more efficient and lasting. Like massage, stretching greatly contributes to the reduction of overall muscle tension and muscle stiffness as well as induces relaxation of the nervous system. It is an important part of your home health care program for your dog.
Another benefit of stretching is that it increases the circulation of both blood and lymph fluids onto the stretched body part. This in turn increases oxygenation and nutrition in the stretched tissues. When you apply stretches right after your maintenance massage routine, it will further those benefits.
Also, regular application of stretching exercises will increase the elasticity of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, joint capsules and the flexibility and range of motion of the joints. The overall benefits of this practice will reduce the incidence of muscle strain and ligament sprain, improve coordination, stride length and reflex time response.
Regular stretching, even if very gentle, is very beneficial to the elderly dog or the dog afflicted by arthritis. It will help maintain good flexibility of the joints and reduce the muscle tension in the adjacent muscles and fascia layers.
The training program of an athletic dog is causing a lot of stress, both physical and emotional. The physical stress of exercising, the workload, as well as travels and competitions, all will result in nervous fatigue and body tension. The benefits of stretching are valuable preventive measures in order to reach and maintain optimal performance.
Regardless of age, breed and physical condition, your dog’s personality and disposition, his fear, his anxiety and sometimes his boredom can add to his nervous stress. Stretching can really help with this aspect of your dog’s life. As you stretch your dog’s muscles, this process will stretch the sensory nerves contained in the muscle bundles, sending relaxation impulses to the animal’s central nervous system, his brain and causing him to relax both physically and mentally. This is an important factor for nervously fatigued dogs as well as the one who have been involved in accidents or are frightened or in pain.
Another great benefit of stretching is that it contributes to your dog’s “body awareness”. As you regularly stretch various body parts, you help your dog focus on them and become “mentally” in touch with them. This process contributes to your dog’s self-awareness, improving his coordination and locomotion. Coupled with your training, stretching can help you improve your dog’s gait.
To help contribute to your dog’s overall health and fitness, the Animal Awareness video library offers you a video showing you how to apply stretching techniques and a stretching exercise routine.
In his book “Canine Massage, A Complete Reference Manual, 2d Edition”*, Jean-Pierre Hourdebaigt presents a solid foundation for learning proper application of canine stretching exercises (the stretching exercises, chapter 9). His massage awareness method teaches people who are actively involved in the life of their dog(s) how they can safely and efficiently care for their animal friend(s) with canine massage. This easily learned method enables you to, in a natural way, actively participate in the care, fitness and well being of your dog.
Be gentle and always assess your dog’s feedback signs as well as the feedback given by your finger tips (the 4 T’s). From experience we recommend you apply the stretching exercise routine daily, after exercising when possible. This will greatly contribute to keeping the flexibility of your dog, shorten his recovery time as well as trigger a nice feeling of relaxation for your animal allowing him to feel more rested and more giving after exercise, travel, fatigue or other stresses. Along with massaging your dog, regular stretching will give you prime feedback on your dog health, flexibility and will result in a stronger bond between the two of you.
I hope you enjoyed this article and found the information useful. My goal is help you provide quality home care for the benefit of your animal.
Enjoy your new Awareness!
Jean-Pierre Hourdebaigt, LMT
The “Stretching Exercises” (CV007) gives you visual guidance in the proper application of simple stretching exercises for your pet companion. Combined with either the “Relaxation Massage Routine” (CV004) or the “Full Body Massage Routine” (CV006), they will have a great relaxing benefit to your animal.
If you are just starting with your home care program, consider our “Introduction to Animal Massage” package,a 20% discount value on the first 7 DVDs, to secure a sound foundation in your animal massage skills. Then take advantage of our other packages to increase your knowledge of home-care protocols for the benefit of your dog(s).