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  • Frankie Aston

How stretching helps your active dog's quality of life

If you've ever done yoga or pilates, you will know the benefit of having flexibility and stability in balance. This week I spoke about the importance of stretching on my Monday Night Chat. One of my Clients has an older dog who has finished competing agility, but they wanted to go on with other activities like obedience and Rally-O. Sally's dog Chester was doing great to begin with, and over time she noticed that his ability to sit for a period was getting worse, and he more and more averted his behaviour when doing spins and figure 8s. When Sally came to see me with Chester, I noticed that pretty much his only issue was diminishing level of postural strength, and limited flexibility. So we focused on strength, active and passive stretching for Chester. Within a couple of weeks, Sally saw a great pick -up in Chester's ability, and he returned to competing Obedience and Rally-O with confidence. The topping on the cake, though was Sally's feedback to me about Chester's quality of life. She let me know "he's acting like he's 6 again, and so many people have made comments to me about how good he looks." Sally is over the moon that she is able to go on in sport with Chester, and keep that special bond they have going for as long as possible. You know that bond, I'm sure. It's so unique for every team, yet it's the heart of why we play sports with our dogs.

So what is the difference between passive and active stretching, and how can it help your team to do more for longer? Active stretching is when the dog is actively participating in the stretch as you guide them. Passive stretching is when the dog is lying or sitting still and you are guiding the stretch. A couple of musts for both types:

  • Muscles must be warm

  • You must go slow & watch your dog's response

  • Begin with a small range of motion

  • Hold for 3 - 10 secs to start

  • Let your dog move out of position gently

When should you stretch your dog? Stretch at all applicable times. After exercise, after training, after a massage to warm up muscles. In my training, I mostly use Active stretching after training and fitness sessions, and throughout a competition day. Warm up stretches for the competing dog should be active. Passive stretching should be used to get the most out of release and flexibility for your dogs. How old can my dog be to do stretching? You may notice that even puppies will stretch themselves in the morning or during and after play. Stretching for your dog at any age will keep them fit, engage their stabiliser muscles, and enable their movement as they age.

What next?

If you're a member of the DogFit Conditioning & Performance Academy, there's a free module on stretching to get you started.

I also have a new course starting in November all about flexibility & stretching!

DogFit Stretch & Flex will start on November 10, 2020.

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