Although it is best to take your dog to a well-trained Canine Rehabilitation Expert when there is an injury involved, you can perform stretching exercises regularly at home with your healthy dog. He will love it, you will have bonding time, and it is vital for any dog who is in competition to routinely stretch. This is especially true of the strenuous sports such as agility, flyball, disc dog, etc.
A word of caution however: Go gently! Do not stretch the body too far! Also, be sure to take the dog for a walk of at least 5-10 minutes before you begin the stretches, so he is warmed up.
All dogs can benefit from three simple stretches, which I recommend to my clients:
1.) Shoulder flexors: With your dog standing, grasp a front leg, gently, above the elbow and move the leg forward, as if the dog was raising his paw to give you a high five. Hold this pose for 15-30 seconds, then repeat two or three times with each front leg.
2.) Hip flexors: A dog uses these muscles when he runs or trots. Again with the dog in a standing position, grasp one of his hind legs, gently, above the knee and slowly move his leg backwards, so it is more or less straight out behind him. Gently! Stop when you feel resistance. If he acts like this gives him any pain, stop immediately, and have him examined by a veterinarian. If he is fine with this motion, hold the position for 15 to 30 seconds, and repeat with both hind legs.
3.) Back stretch: Again your dog is in a standing position. Use a treat to lure his head gently toward his tail. The dog’s body should bend in a C shape. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, and repeat two or three times on each side. You will have to give him the treat for being such a good dog!
Also, I created a DVD of stretching exercises which you might find helpful. See: “Saunders’ Stretching the Performance Dog” DVD (Clean Run Productions, 2005). CLICK HERE: http://wizofpaws.net/dvds.aspx