Lets face it, dogs won’t typically take the initiative to stop running, jumping, swimming or going wild in the woods on their own unless they’re hurt. Our furry friends will go nonstop as long as they’re allowed without realizing how tired and sore they may be. I have first hand evidence of this, as Tatum is the perfect example of the energizer bunny when out on the trails. Once home though, my trail dog is sure to go down hard, eyes glued shut, waking up hours later to stiff muscles and a slight limp.
Short & stiff muscles are something that both humans and dogs can suffer from if we don’t take care of our physical condition. Humans have learned how important is is to stretch and warm-up before diving into physical activity. By keeping our bodies loose and nimble through stretching, we are more flexible and better conditioned for exercise. This rings true with our four legged companions too!
Light conditioning before activity has a preventative effect, increasing blood circulation warming up the muscles so that the joints are lubricated. And, just like a pre-workout warm up, it’s also smart to allow your dog to wind down after physical exertion. Suggestions on warm up & wind down activities:
*Let the dog walk slowly for a while and then increase the tempo for 2-3 minutes.
*Let the dog trott for 2-3 minutes.
*Let the dog gallop for one minute.
*Then let the dog make some short explosive moves.
*Let the dog wind down a little by going back to trotting and then walking.
Everything on the list above will help to remove lactic acid, while other condition activites, such as walking up hills and working on an exercise ball, are very beneficial in preventing canine injuries. Stretching is most effective after the dog has used its muscles and feels somewhat relaxed. Massage is also a complement to daily exercise. It’s also a great way to bond with your dog in a natural way, and your exercise companion will love it!
I was fortunate to win a 1-hr pet massage therapy session at a doggie event last Summer. As we all know, Tatum was the real winner! But, while she reaped the benefits of my winning raffle ticket, I rolled up my sleeves to learn all that I could about pet massage. I spent that hour picking the brain of our massage therapist & trying my hand at massage so that I could continue to practice on Tatum in the future. Here are a couple of helpful tips to get started with your own four legged companion:
*The greater part of the pressure you exert should be applied by the flat hand, although your thumb and fingers are also working to manipulate the muscles.
*Hold the dog’s elbow with one hand, grasping the wrist with the other. Move the leg forward and upwards, stretching the elbow joint and the flexor muscles of the foreleg (shoulder joint)
*Place one hand directly above the knee joint and the other hand on the lower part of the leg around the hock joint. Lift the leg upwards so that the knee is bent. Push gently upwards and backwards with the hand positioned above the knee joint.
After an active day on the trails, in the mountains or on the bike path, let your dog wind down with some stretching exercises. When you get home reward the dog with massage and you’ll be sure to get a happy dog, ready for new adventures and optimum performance! Massage and stretching are an essential part of an active lifestyle, not to mention a low cost investment in your dogs overall health.