Spud likes to stretch. He frequently looks like he is bowing to you while he stretches out his legs and lets out a big relaxing yawn. He stretches every time he gets up in the morning or when he awakes from a restful nap. Sometimes Spud seems to be imitating your yoga poses, which you find innocent and cute. You enjoy stretching so have never viewed Spud’s as a problem, but you also have not really given Spud’s stretching a lot of thought until now. Although you always felt that all stretching is good, maybe you are wrong and need to learn a little more information.
The Root of the Behavior
There are many reasons why dogs stretch. One common reason is that he wants to play. Just like a soccer player stretches to go out and play the big game, dogs realize that stretching prepares them for physical activity. Actually, before domestication, wolves used to stretch before they performed survival physical activities, such as hunting, or when they were preparing to defend their territory. Through evolution, they knew that if they didn’t stretch, they risked losing a fight over territory or not getting food, which resulted in the possible death of their pups and mates. Although today’s domesticated dogs do not usually rely on hunting and fighting for survival, they still have the deep, embedded, natural instinct to stretch. As with humans, stretching warms up muscles and gets the blood flowing; it also releases toxins. All of these things help out a dog when he is about to perform a strenuous physical activity.
Some dogs also stretch because it is part of a mating ritual. If Spud is around the pretty female poodle down the road and starts performing a stretch, he might be expressing sexual interest. He might also just be performing a common greeting stretch that dogs commonly do with both other dogs and humans. The greeting stretch usually involves squinty eyes and relaxed ears, and it shows respect for your space and communicates respect. This greeting stretch, which looks like a bow, is a common way that dogs try to make new friends. It is a friendly gesture that expresses peace and a willingness to play together. Spud also stretches to relax. After all, stretching feels good, and it is actually instinctual for dogs to stretch after sleeping. In rare occasions, stretching could be a sign of something more serious, such as pancreatitis or other signs of pain.
Encouraging the Behavior
For the most part, stretching should be encouraged and it is very beneficial to your dog’s health. Stretching has been shown to alleviate back pain, arthritis, and tendinitis. This is why stretching is highly beneficial for elderly dogs with many of these problems. It also affects a dog’s brain and emotional state. Think about the positive calming effects of yoga; these effects happen with Spud too. Some vets even encourage stretching out your dog by lifting his legs in a parallel position and stretching out older dog’s joints. Stretching can also be a sign of respect, and this is integral to a dog and his owner. When Spud bows down to you, he is expressing his loyalty to you, and you should provide him with positive reinforcement for this.
Furthermore, dog stretching can be part of making dog friends and mating. However, if your dog seems to be stretching on the ground, and you suspect that he also has some stomach pains, the stretching could be a sign of pancreatitis. Left untreated this could cause a fever, vomiting, and possibly death. Stretching could also be a way to relieve the pressure off of the internal organs or stretch out a bad back. If Spud seems to be stretching to alleviate any sort of pain, take him to your veterinarian in order to eliminate any serious issues.
Other Solutions and Considerations
There are numerous stretches that owners can do with their beloved canines. Stretching out your dog’s legs can help out older and younger dogs alike. It also can be a good time to provide some extra attention while warming up muscles and relaxing your pooch. Acknowledge Spud’s respectful stretching with a back rub or treat; this respect is healthy for your doggy/owner relationship. When Spud stretches in front of another dog, and the other dog seems friendly, then let them play. However, if the other dog seems vicious and crazy, it is time to get Spud out of there. It is true that not all dogs want to play, and this could be a concern for an innocent, playful pup that enjoys the company of other dogs. The most concerning stretch is that which is an attempt to alleviate pancreatitis. Pancreatitis diverts digestive enzymes into the abdomen then leads to breaking down the dog’s tissues. If Spud seems to be stretching out his stomach, usually by lying down, and also seems in pain: lethargic, sickly, vomiting, call the vet immediately.
Spud’s stretching is usually not a cause for concern. He finds it relaxing, instinctual, and also uses it as a mode of communication with humans and other dogs. He feels the benefits of stretching in his muscles and uses it as a preparation for physical activity. Although Spud does not need to rely on stretching in the same ways his wolf ancestors did, he still uses it as a beneficial way to relax and show respect. Just be observant if Spud is stretching to alleviate pain from his stomach or sore joints. Overall, stretching is part of Spud’s healthy lifestyle, so get with Spud and do some yoga together; his favorite pose is the downward dog.
By a Shiba Inu lover Patty Oelze
Published: 02/07/2018, edited: 01/30/2020