Simple Neck, Shoulder, and Back Stretches

14 Nov 2004Steve Schwarz

Updated 11-Oct-2010 - Video Added

We try to stretch our dogs before and after Agility and Flyball practices, trials, and tournaments. I briefly discussed Handler Stretching in a previous article; here are some simple dog stretches that should be easy for most handlers to incorporate into their routine. I particularly like these stretches because they don’t require the handler to push or pull on the dog; thereby reducing the possibility of inadvertently injuring the dog. Of course, use common sense as you try these stretches and don’t ever force your dog into any stretch. Consult your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns about using these stretches with your dog.

You might call these “cookie stretches”. I learned them from their creator Dr. Laurie McCauley DVM at TOPS Veterinary Rehab in Grayslake, Illinois. Start with the dog standing in front of you facing away from your body with about a dozen small tasty treats in each hand. At the end of each stretch the dog gets rewarded with one of the cookies. Milo and I are demonstrating the starting position below. This is the starting position for all the stretches I’ll present.

Starting the Stretch

You may need to put your opposite arm under your dog’s stomach to keep them standing directly in front of you; otherwise they might try to turn their whole body to get at the cookie.

Neck Stretches

Put your hand (with the cookies) in front of your dog’s nose to get their attention. Slowly lower your hand down towards the center of your dog’s chest. You want your dog’s head to follow your hand until it touches their chest (see the picture below). Try to build up to your dog holding this position for 5-10 seconds (at first you may want to just give up the treat right away). You can let your dog nibble or lick at the treat to encourage their holding the stretch. Then let your dog have the cookie! Repeat this stretch two more times.

Head to Chest Stretch

With your dog in the starting position take some more cookies and move your hand towards your dog’s shoulder. Again you want your dog’s head to follow your hand until it touches their shoulder (see the picture below). Try to build up to your dog holding this position for 5-10 seconds. Then let your dog have the cookie! Repeat this stretch two more times on this side then repeat three times to the other shoulder.

Head to Shoulder Stretch

From the starting position take some more cookies and move your hand directly over your dog’s head. Again you want your dog’s head to follow your hand as far up and back as you dog will comfortably move (see the picture below). This can be a difficult for some dogs so go little by little. Your dog may also try to sit - so use you hand under their belly to keep them standing. Try to build up to your dog holding this position for 5-10 seconds. Then let your dog have the cookie! Repeat this stretch two more times.

Upward Neck Stretch

Neck and Shoulder Stretches

Load up on cookies again and put your hand in front of your dog’s nose to get their attention. Slowly lower your hand down towards the ground. As you hand passes their fore leg move your hand behind the dog’s leg and right between it’s front legs. You want your dog’s head to be following your hand. As your dog puts its head between its front legs draw your hand down to the ground and as far back as your dog can reach (see the pictures below). Try to build up to your dog holding this position for 5-10 seconds. Then let your dog have the cookie! Repeat this stretch two more times.

Neck Stretch Step 2Neck
Stretch Final Position

With your dog in the same starting position, put your hand (with the cookies) in front of the dog’s nose to get their attention. Slowly lower your hand down towards the dog’s right front foot. Again you want your dog’s head to be following your hand. As your dog lowers it’s head position the cookie just behind the front foot (see the picture below). Try to build up to your dog holding this position for 5-10 seconds. Reward with a cookie. Repeat this stretch two more times. Then repeat three times on the opposite side.

Neck and Shoulder Stretch Step 2Neck and
Shoulder Stretch Final Position

Neck, Shoulder, and Back Stretch

Again with your dog in the same starting position, put your hand (with the cookies) in front of the dog’s nose to get their attention. Slowly move your hand out to the dog’s right side and back towards their right hip. Depending on your dog’s shape and flexibility, try to position the cookie at their hip (see the pictures below). Try to build up to your dog holding this position for 5-10 seconds. Reward with a cookie. Repeat this stretch two more times. Then repeat three times on the opposite side.

Neck, Shoulder and Back Stretch
to Hip Step 2Neck, Shoulder and Back
Stretch to Hip Final Position

Starting from the same starting position, put your hand (with the cookies) in front of the dog’s nose to get their attention. Slowly lower your hand down towards the dog’s right fore leg. As your dog lowers it’s head continue moving your hand towards their rear right leg. Depending on your dog’s shape and flexibility, try to position the cookie just behind the rear foot (see the pictures below). Try to build up to your dog holding this position for 5-10 seconds. Reward with a cookie. Repeat this stretch two more times. Then repeat three times on the opposite side.

Neck, Shoulder and Back Stretch
to Rear Foot Step 2Neck, Shoulder and Back
Stretch to Rear Foot Final Position

Here is a video of Meeker and me demonstrating these stretches:

I hope these simple stretches will help your dog get and stay flexible. It only takes a couple minutes and some little cookies to get started. I know our dogs really enjoy these stretches and the cookies!

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