How can I increase my pet's flexibility at home?
Updated: Oct 16, 2019
This week I want to discuss some easy exercises you can perform for your pet at home in order to increase their flexibility. As pets age, they may sometimes lose the range of motion in their body due to tightness in the muscles, stiffness in the joints, or a combination thereof. There are some easy exercises you can do at home to help your pet stay loose and pain free as they begin to age. These exercises can also be done proactively to help your pet staying and feeling young!
Please warm up your pet before doing a bunch of stretches. (A simple 5-10 minute walk around the neighborhood or house should suffice.) It is important to heat things up as to prevent injury. A cold muscle is more likely to tear than a warm one!
This is a hard topic to write down and explain, so I strongly urge you to watch the videos provided!
Stretch 1: Side bending
The first stretch you will want to perform is side to side. Grab a high value treat and sit with your pet in front of you facing away. Hold onto your pet's bottom so they cannot cheat, and guide them to touch their nose towards their right hip. Hold the stretch for 3 seconds, making sure the ears are level, and then return to the middle.
Then take your pet's nose and guide them towards their left hip and hold for 3 seconds, making sure the ears are level. Don't force them to go past where they are comfortable, but the goal is to be able to touch their nose all the way around to their hip equally from side to side.
This stretch can be performed 3-5 times per side. I recommend only 1-2 sets as your dog might get bored or sore from too much.
Stretch 2: Chin to chest
The second stretch you can do is chin to chest. Sometimes, this can be challenging, so I like to start pets with chin between the ankles.
Hold your pet from behind and guide them with a cookie to where their nose about touches the floor. If they are able to reach that, guide them between their forelegs towards their chest and have them touch right between their two front legs at the sternum. Try to hold this stretch for 3 seconds. Let your pet relax by bringing them back to neutral and them repeat for a max of 5 times.
Stretch 1: Triceps
Take your pet's forearm and gently extend their arm forward. Try to keep the elbow as straight as possible! Hold for 5-10 seconds.
Stretch 2: Biceps
Take your pets shoulder and, while keeping the arm straight, flex their arm back towards their hind end. Be gentle with this one! Hold for 5-10 seconds.
Stretch 3: Pecs
Take your pet's wrist and gently bend it up against their forearm. Support their bent arm and pull up and out, as if opening a book. Hold for 5-10 seconds.
Stretch 1: Hamstrings
Take your pet's hind limb and support under the hip and just under the knee. Gently reach their toes towards their front legs. Hold for 5-10 seconds.
Stretch 2: Quads/psoas
Take your pet's hind limb and support under the hip and in front of the knee (just above, is preferable.) Extend the leg backwards and hold for 5-10 seconds.
Stretch 3: Groin / adductors
Take your pet's ankle and flex it so it lays against their upper leg. Support the bent leg and pull up and then outwards, like your dog is peeing on a fire hydrant. Hold for 5-10 seconds.
I hope this post was informational! Loose, limber muscles help to keep pet's moving, whether they are simply older or an athlete. If you have questions, be sure to reach out!
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