' ' '
A dog doing a bow stretch

Dog Stretching

There are three types of common dog stretching that you will see as a pet parent. The dog sploot, the puppy bow and the couch crawl. Stretching is a good method for dogs to warm up their muscles, ease discomfort, and interact with other dogs. The most common is muscle related. In the article below I describe the three main purposes to why dogs stretch. Then I explain the 3 types of stretches our dogs do including: The Dog Sploot, The Puppy Bow and The Couch Crawl. I then explain 28 stretches you can at home to ease muscle pains .

Three Causes For Dog Stretching

1. Muscles Related

  • To loosen up muscles after sleeping
  • To loosen up muscles before & after playing
  • To loosen up muscles before & after walks or exercise
  • To loosen up muscles that are tight or stiff
  • To relieve muscle pain
  • Because their muscles need more exercise

*Below we explain 28 stretches you can do at home to help your dog’s muscles and joints

2. Medical

  • To relieve pain associated with upset stomach
  • To relieve pain associated with pancreatitis

*In the above cases please consult your vet

3. Communicate

  • To communicate that they want to play
  • To communicate that they are friendly

*This is very normal and should not be of concern

4. Other

  • Because you give them attention when they stretch so they do it more often

3 Types Of Stretches Your Dog Does

1. Couch Crawl

The couch crawl is the opposite of the puppy bow. It typically occurs when a dog is meandering their way off the couch. This is where they have their front half off the couch and slowly crawl off the bed leaving their legs behind.

a dog stretching as it comes off the couch

2. Dog Sploot

There are 2 main types of the dog sploot. The full dog sploot and the side dog sploot. Your dog’s stretching its entire body but it especially focuses on the groin and legs. However there are other reasons why your dog sploots. One of the reasons being temperature control. Many times dogs will sploot on tile or hardwood floor as a way to cool down.

Types Of Dog Sploot

An Australian Shepherd Dog Splooting

The full sploot: This is the most common dog sploot. This position involves the dog stretching both hind legs behind his body. It’s especially common with corgis, Chihuahuas and other short-legged breeds.

The Side Sploot (Left or Right): The dog tucks one leg under the body while they kick the other out to the side. Often the animal is laying with on hip on the ground.

The Dog Sploot Other Names

The Dog Sploot Is Also Known As

  • Frogging or frog legs
  • Pancaking,
  • or Superman

Dog Splooting can be of concern when:

  1. An old dog starts doing the dog sploot suddenly
  2. A sign of arthritis
  3. A sign of hip dysplasia

3. Puppy Bow

The puppy bow is also known as the downward dog. This position stretches their forearms and back. It is also a way to communicate to other dogs they want to play.

A dog doing a bow stretch

28 Dog Stretching Exercises You Can Do To Alleviate Muscle Pains

Dog stretching is a great way to help loosen up your dogs muscles. If your dog is constantly stretching then you might want to intervene and help him out a bit. You must understand the two types of stretching techniques taught below. They are dynamic and static stretching. Research on sport dogs shows that dynamic stretching is superior to static stretching. As a result, dynamic stretching is the go to when warming up your dog. Static stretching is good for stretching before bed. 

Below are 14 types of dynamic stretches and 14 types of static stretches. You can pick from any of the 28 stretches to do at home with your furry friend. Dog stretching is a great way to improve flexibility, circulation, and joint health. Not to mention, it’s a lot of fun! So grab your pup and let’s get started!

What Is Static Stretching

Static stretching is what we most think of when stretching. This is where you sit, stand or lie down and hold a single position for about 30 seconds. You complete this exercise with out moving. When performed 2-3x a week it can help maintain joint flexibility. However, it is possible to over stretch a muscle using this technique. Signs of overstretching do not appear right away and can take up to 24 hours to rear its ugly face. 

What Is Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretching is when the you encourage the dog to move through their natural range of motion. It mimics the day to day actions that the dog would normally perform. This method allows the dog to regulate how far you take the stretch. This reduces the risk for muscle tears, tendon ruptures and joint injures. 

Example Of Static V.S Dynamic

Static: Holding your dogs front leg out

Dynamic: Asking the dog to walk forward

Research and experience indicate that injury rates could be reduced by up to 25% if owners took appropriate preventative action.

Debra Canapp DVM

15 Reasons Why To Stretch Your Dog's Muscles

  1. Studies have proven that stretching reduces injury rates
  2. Stretching increases your dog’s ability to preform an action. Thus making your dog preform better in dog sports like canine agility
  3. Stretching increases your dog’s flexibility and balance. This helps prevent everyday injuries caused by slippery floors or ice
  4. Your stretching routine should be around 10 minutes which is ideal for greatest performance gains.
  5. Improves tendons flexibility
  6. Reduces strain to muscles, tendon or ligaments
  7. Improves range of motion
  8. Increases heart and breathing rate
  9. Increases blood circulation and blood flow to the muscles and ligaments  
  10. Increases the rate of muscle contractions
  11. Encourages mental focus
  12. Increases your dog’s focus on the owner
  13. Allows you to detect if something feels off or wrong with your dog
  14. Allows nerve impulses to travel faster
  15. Distributes joint fluid over the surfaces of the joint for improved lubrication

When To Stretch Your Dog?

Warm up your dog before strenuous activity or confinement. This includes:

  1. Tossing a ball or frisbee
  2. Going for a hike
  3. Swimming
  4. Running
  5. Dog sports or canine fitness
  6. If you had to confine your dog for more than 4 hours
  7. If your dog has been exposed to cold weather for more than 4 hours

When Not To Stretch Your Dog?

If your dog is injured you should not stretch them with out vet approval. Here are additional signs that your dog might need to see the vet.

  • Bunny hopping while running as a result of being unable to put weight on all four legs
  • “Bunny hopping” when walking normally
  • Crawling on the front legs
  • Standing with back legs close together
  • Standing with front legs wide apart
  • Reduction in walking pace
  • Sleeping more frequently
  • Standing or lying in odd positions in an attempt to alleviate discomfort
  • Acting cranky or grouchy

What Should My Dog Stretching Routine Include?

Your routine should target all the major muscle groups. This includes the feet, wrist, hips, shoulders, knee, elbow, neck, spine and tail. Exercises should mimic your dogs natural movements. It should last between 5-10 minutes and should not fatigue your dog. If your dog is tired from the exercises you did you might have done too much. Common signs of fatigue include, yawning, panting, walking away from you and difficulty holding the position. 

Dog Stretching: Dynamic

The game of tug stretches the front end muscles, adductors, pectorals and core muscles. Additional, when your dog digs backwards it warms up the hamstrings and glutes. Lastly, it raises your dog’s heart rate. Raising your dog’s heart rate brings blood and oxygen to your dog’s muscles. You never want a dog to run while their muscles are cold. This is why tug is a great exercise to do before playing fetch, going to the dog park, or participating in dog sports (agility, flyball, herding, etc.). If your dog already knows how to tug follow these instructions:

  1. Choose your dogs favorite toy and engage in tug
  2. You can move left to right but never up and down
  3. Avoid jerking your dogs head when going left to right
  4. Keep their head low (avoid their neck from going backwards)
  5. Let them “dig” backward and provide some resistance

The Game Of Tug: ‘Drop it’, ‘Get it’, and ‘Dig’.

To teach drop it, get it and dig it using the “Tug Method” you need to understand why traditional methods fail. One method for teaching drop it includes offering a cookie or another toy in exchange for the item the dog has. This method creates a ‘value dilemma’. The value dilemma is the idea that your dog must make a choice between what he has and what you have. He must value what you have over what he has. Imagine you have a 100 dollar bill. I have a 1 dollar bill. What would you choose? This is the value dilemma. So to avoid the value dilemma I recommend using the Tug Method which involves only one toy.  To teach tug:

  1. Get your dogs favorite toy.
  2. Present the toy by holding it at both ends
  3. Say the cue word “Get It” or “Take It”
  4. If your dog is not interested, you can wave it on the floor to look like prey.
  5. Once your dog grabs it, play tug left to right.
  6. Say “Good Dig” when your dog pulls backwards. Provide some resistance but not too much.
  7. If your dog does not dig, do not worry. It will come with confidence.
  8. Once your dog has had some fun, hold the toy completely still. Do not wave it. Do not let them dig backwards. Become the most boring thing in the world. Say “Drop it”
  9. Your dog will try to continue tugging. This will confuse him. He might even get bored. This causes him to start to release the toy. Even the slightest loosening of his grip is GREAT.
  10. Say “Get it” when he loosens his grip and continue to play with him.
  11. Repeat steps 3-6
  12. Over time he will understand that releasing it what is causing the game to continue.
  13. He will start to release bigger and bigger until the item is fully dropped.

The tug method is great for teaching drop it. It eliminates the value dilemma because there is only one item to value, the game of tug.  

Play bow is also known as puppy bow or downward dog. It stretches the triceps, mid back, hips and hamstrings. This stretch mimics the play bow stretch.

To teach it:

  1. Place your back hand under their back legs
  2. This is to prevent their back legs from collapsing and going into a down position.
  3. Take a treat and lure your dogs nose down toward the floor.
  4. Press the treat towards their body and towards your self. This is to push their butt back.
  5. If your dog tries to go into a down, push up with the hand under their legs.
  6. Hold the stretch for 5 seconds and release slowly

Tip: Many dogs will go into a play bow after coming out of the crate or after they lay down. Take advantage of that and say good bow, and reward. Rewarding natural behaviors is called capturing. This is a form of capturing.

The aim is to have your dog’s feet stationary and lean forward to stretch the hip and back muscles. This movement mimics the couch crawl described above.

  1. Use a platform (chair, stool, couch)
  2. If your don’t have access to a platform you can use your body instead of a platform
  3. Have your dog put their front paws on the item
  4. Stand in front of the platform
  5. Place the cookie towards your body
  6. Your dog should lean towards the cookie
  7. If they move their feet, do not reward
  8. If they keep moving their feet they are either: Inflexible or The stool is too high. Adjust according to their capabilities.

This stretch focuses on the front limbs. If your dog knows paw skip below. If they do not follow one of these three methods to train it.

Method 1: Place a treat in your palm and close your hand. If they paw at your hand say yes, open it, and reward

Method 2: Place tape on your dogs eyebrow. When they paw at it, say yes and reward

Method 3: If your dog already knows paw, say paw and hold your hand above their head.

If Your Dog Knows Paw:

  1. Have your dog sit
  2. Ask for paw
  3. When they reach out, say yes and reward
  4. Practice on both sides
  5. Do 5 reps per paw
  6. Make sure the other paw stays stationary on the floor

Circles increases the neck, spine and tail flexibility. Have your dog spin 360 degrees to the left and right. You can do this by luring them with a cookie in a circle. Make sure to lure them slowly and low enough so that they do not jump up towards the cookie. If they are jumping up, lower the cookie. Make sure to do both sides five times each.

This exercise stretches the neck, spine and tail.

  1. Stand with one leg forward. Make sure you spread your legs far far enough to allow the dog to pass. This stretch is difficult for big dogs and short pet parents 
  2. Take a cookie and lure your dog between your legs
  3. As they exit your legs, reward and step forward.
  4. Switch cookie hands
  5. Lure them through the new hole created when you stepped forward.
  6. Reward your dog based on well they are performing the action. You might only get one reward per step or you might be able to take one or two steps before rewarding.  
  7. Do 3 sets of 10

This exercise warms up the muscles responsible for lateral movement (side stepping). Muscles responsible for lateral movement are are called abductors and adductors.

  1. Have your dog stand perpendicular to you with their ribcage touching your legs
  2. Using your body pressure, walk towards you dog in the direction you want them to go
  3. Make sure to keep them perpendicular to you by keeping their nose on a food lure
  4. Say yes when your dog steps to the side
  5. Keep their treat at their natural head level
  6. Work both sides
  7. Repeat 5x in each direction.

Tip: Your dog will cross their front feet and or rear feet, this is the desired behavior.

This exercise also warms up abductor and adductors. I find this easier to teach but it only isolates the back feet.

  1. Use a non-slip platform (chair, stool, or book).
  2. Have your dog put their front paws on the item.
  3. Stand to the side of your dog
  4. Walk into your dog.
  5. Your dogs front paws are to remain on the platform.
  6. They should take a side step, reward it (even if its slight)
  7. Say the cue “step” every time they take a step.
  8. Do 5 steps in each direction

Tips:

  • Use an aerobic bench
  • The platform anchors them.
  • The platform does not need to be high. It could be a book.
  • Most dogs have poor abductor and adductor muscles. Their step might be tiny. They will get stronger and make bigger steps over time.
  • Notice any differences in how big their steps are. There might be a difference between their left and right feet.
  • Keep the back flat no roaching

Many times our dog has no idea what’s behind them. They have front feet and a head, everything else comes with the gig. Teaching a dog to back up teaches two things. First it teaches rear awareness. Secondly it teaches them how to distribute their weight to each rear foot evening. This exercise warms up hamstrings and glutes. There are two methods to teach back up. 

Method 1:

  1. Place a matt/blanket/yoga mat on the floor.
  2. Sit on the floor or a low stool and toss treats between their front legs
  3. As your dog backs up to retrieve the cookies, say “yes” and repeat

Method 2:

  1. Place a matt/blanket/yoga matt on the floor
  2. Stand up in front of them
  3. Walk towards your dog and invade their space
  4. One they step back wards, say yes and reward

Tips

  • Hard treats are ideal for method 1 because the dog can hear them hit the floor
  • Once your dog is offering back up, you can name the commend and request him to back up
  • Make sure your dog does not hop. They need to step back wards with each foot.
  • Goal: For your dog to travel 6-8 feet to get to the matt

This exercise warms up your dog’s core muscles groups. This includes the hips, shoulders, knees, elbows and wrist. Have your dog in the stand position and request a down. There are two ways a dog will go into a down only one of them is correct for this stretch.

Sphinx Position

Requires the dogs feet to be stationary. They are to shift their weight back and fold down. Request that your dog does a down using a cookie if necessary.

Most Dogs Do This Method Which Is Not Ideal

Most dogs will move their front feet out wards and slide into a down. This will not stretch the dog correctly. If your dog is use to doing a down in this fashion, take a small oven pan and place it front of their front feet. This will prevent them from moving their paws forward. If you are still struggling. Have your dog stand on am aerobic bench. This will prevent them from turning their body. The platform prevents them from trying to move away from the blocker (oven pan).

Trotting gets the blood flowing which brings oxygen to the muscles. Its like the warm up jog that we do before any exercise. In this exercise you are looking for your dog to walk in a two beat gait. A two beat gait is where front and back paws hit the floor at the same time. This is because it prevents shifting of weight.

  1. Have your dog on a leash and trot back and forth for about 50-100 feet or 20-30 meters.
  2. Work your dog on both sides of you
  3. Your dog should be looking ahead and not at you
  4. Try to look forward your self . This will minimize your dogs tendency to look at you
  5. Repeat for 2 minutes

NO SPACE?

If you do not have the space. Place jump bars or broom/mop sticks on the floor. Have them walk back and forth stepping over the obstacles (not jumping). Have them do it 15-20 minutes. To make sure they are not looking at you, place a target, food bowl, or treat dispenser at the end of the sticks.

This exercise engages your dogs hips, and increases their range of motion of their hind end.

There are two types of sits our dogs can do 1) Tuck Sit & 2) Rock Back Sit. Tuck sits is where the front feet remain stationary and the back feet tuck under the dog into a sit. Rock back sits are when the back feet remain stationary and their front feet rock backwards. You want to train a Tuck Sit not a Rock Back. Every dog has a preference to which one they do. So you might get lucky and your dog prefers the tuck sit.

To Train A Tuck Sit:

  1. Have your dog place their front feet on a low platform (i.e aerobic bench)
  2. Stand in front of the platform.
  3. Ask for a sit.
  4. Keep the cookie at your body. They might rock back but then they will not get the cookie.
  5. Once they tuck their back feet in, reward.
  6. Ask for a stand. They should kick their feet backwards with out moving their front feet.

Tip: You can hold your dogs collar to make help them stay stationary.

Pop ups focus on the core and rear end muscles. To teach ‘pop up’ we use the ‘touch’ command. To teach touch:

  1. Place an open hand out towards your dog (without a cookie).
  2. If your dog sniffs it, reward with other hand.
  3. Repeat
  4. Once your dog is offering the the touch behavior consistently move your hand to different positions. This could include to the left, right, up, down, behind your hips and so on. 
  5. Once your dog can do touch on command in any position you are ready to do ‘Pop Ups’.
  6. Place your hand slightly above their head and say touch. They should jump up or pop up to touch your hand.
  7. Repeat 5x

This exercise stretches rear legs and hip flexors. It is pretty simple exercise but the key is to not throw the ball too high. Otherwise the dog will have to jump. You want the dog to be in control of their motion. Some dogs are unable to do this exercise correctly. This is because the visual of the ball is too stimulating so they are unable to control themselves.

Dog Stretching: Static

Cookie Stretches

The cookie stretch consist of 4 parts. The Turtle Stretch, The Fold In Half, The Butt Sniffer, and Peek-A-Boo. It stretches the: 1) Neck (lateral movement) 2) Mid back 3) Lower back/butt 4)Neck (Up & Down). I prefer to use a Kong for these stretches. Most professionals refer to these stretches as the “cookie stretch”.

  1. Have your dog in the standing position
  2. Stand to the left or right of them
  3. One hand has a cookie or Kong
  4. Place your second hand under the dogs pelvis. This is to prevent them from turning, sitting, or laying down
  5. Put the cookie at their nose and lure it towards their shoulder blade
  6. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds
  7. Repeat the stretch 3 times on both sides
  8. Compare any difference in flexibility from the right to left size
  1. Have your dog in the standing position
  2. Stand to the left or right of them
  3. One hand has a cookie or Kong
  4. Place your second hand under the dogs pelvis. This is to prevent them from turning, sitting, or laying down
  5. Put the cookie at their nose and lure it towards their hip
  6. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds
  7. Repeat the stretch 3 times on both sides
  8. Compare any difference in flexibility from the right to left size
  1. Have your dog in the standing position
  2. Stand to the left or right of them
  3. One hand has a cookie or Kong
  4. Place your second hand under the dogs pelvis. This is to prevent them from turning, sitting, or laying down
  5. Put the cookie at their nose and lure it towards their back knee
  6. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds
  7. Repeat the stretch 3 times on both sides
  8. Compare any difference in flexibility from the right to left size
  1. Have your dog in the standing position
  2. Stand to the left or right of them
  3. One hand has a cookie or Kong
  4. Place your second hand under the dogs pelvis. This is to prevent them from turning, sitting, or laying down
  5. Put the cookie between their front legs
  6. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds
  7. Repeat the stretch 3 times on both sides
  8. Compare any difference in flexibility from the right to left size

Tips:

  • Gradually increase difficulty in the stretch. If your dog is wiggly and wont sit still he is tell you he is not flexible enough. You need to come out of the stretch a bit.
  • Use a Kong instead of a cookie. It makes holding the stretch a lot easier.

Other Static Stretches

The following stretches focus on the limbs, shoulder, and hip joints.

This stretch can be done in a stand or when lying down on their side. It is easiest to do this stretch while the dog is sitting. Grasp the forearm gently in front of the elbow and stretch the limb forward while staying parallel with the ground. Make sure Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds. Repeat with the other side

*Since our dogs can not tell us when to stop stretching you must not hold their arm too tightly. Please allow your dog to pull their leg back. If they do this, allow it and start over. Take note of how far you could stretch them with out the pull back reaction and do not exceed it.

This stretch can be done in a stand or when lying down on their side. It is easiest to do this stretch while the dog is sitting. Grasp the forearm gently in front of the elbow and stretch the limb backwards while staying parallel with the ground. Make sure Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds. Repeat with the other side

*Since our dogs can not tell us when to stop stretching you must not hold their arm too tightly. Please allow your dog to pull their leg back. If they do this, allow it and start over. Take note of how far you could stretch them with out the pull back reaction and do not exceed it.

While in a stand or lying on their side position, gently extend the hind limb backwards. Keep the back and pelvis parallel with the ground. Hold this stretch for 15-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

While in a stand or lying on their side position, gently pull in the hind limb forward. Keep the back and pelvis parallel with the ground. Hold this stretch for 15-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

This stretch takes two hands. One to stabilize the joint and the other to move the joint. Put one hand under the armpit to stabilize the joint. Take the other and cuff the shoulder blade. Rotate the shoulder blade in a circular motion gently

This stretch takes two hands. One to stabilize the joint and the other to move the joint. Put one hand under the groin to stabilize the joint. Take the other and cuff the hip joint. Rotate the hip in a circular motion gently

While the dog is sitting or laying down. Fold the dogs wrist towards their forearm

Stretching the chest can be performed in a sit position or lying on their back. This stretch involves gently moving the limb away from the chest to the side. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds. Repeat with the other side.

This exercise mimics the dog sploot described above. You can imitate this stretch when the dog is on its back with its belly out and legs splooted. While most dogs can naturally do the dog sploot position, you can stretch them by pushing down gently for 15-30 seconds

Dog Stretching Summary

Please keep in mind that dynamic stretching is easier to perform, is more effective and less likely to cause injury. As a result, I highly recommend that you start with dynamic stretching. If this proves to be too much for the dog to handle then you can try static stretching. Stretching your dog is a great way to maintain their flexibility as they get older. It is also a great way to prevent future injuries and exercise their muscles when they are unable to exercise due to weather.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

The Ultimate Training Guide

Look Out For An Email. 

You Can Also Download The Guide Below

Download here