Who doesn’t love a good stretch, right? That absolutely fantastic, seemingly Reed-Richards-like extension of the limbs and the feeling of calm that settles over you—no matter the time of day, a good stretch is always welcome.
As it turns out, you’re not the only one who welcomes a good stretch—your beloved pooch does too! Stretching is an extremely common behavior in dogs, with a plethora of reasons behind the behavior. Here’s all that you need to know about the topic.
Dogs stretch quite a bit and in varying positions. From stretching on you to around you to even pushing you away while stretching, they do it all!
But why do dogs stretch so much? Do they stretch to wake themselves up or just as a pleasurable indulgence, as their hoomans do?
Primarily, dogs stretch as a form of greeting. The position where your dog stretches out his front legs while leaning back on his haunches, with his head up, is a greeting stretch, especially common if you’ve been away from your pet for some time.
For the pet parent, a greeting stretch should be seen as a thing of privilege, since dogs will only do this with folks they are comfortable with.
However, dogs, being the expressive creatures that they are, can also use their stretch to communicate certain things with you, such as the need for attention or the feeling of boredom and the consequent desire to play.
Other times, your dog may be stretching simply to feel good.
Here’s a more in-depth look at the different reasons behind a dog’s stretching, whether on you or not!
This is an extremely cute position where your dog stretches out his back legs, resembling a roast chicken (albeit a cute one!). This position is extremely common in French bulldogs, though the OG sploot-ers are the corgis.
This stretch can have both hind legs outstretched, or one stretched and one tucked. Sometimes, this stretching can be accompanied by crawling forward with the front legs.
As awkward as it may look, dogs usually sploot on cool surfaces to cool their bellies and groin areas against it and to give their hips a good stretch.
Since it requires quite a bit of flexibility, splooting is more common in younger dogs, especially puppies.
Sometimes, your pooch may also sploot on grass—a very clever way to enjoy a good underbelly scratch. However, make sure that the itch isn’t a result of any grass allergies; relieving the itch by scratching on the grass can obviously make things worse.
Also Read: How Do Dogs Show Affection?
Just like you, your doggo will stretch after they’ve just woken up in the morning. It is believed that this is an instinctive behavior inherited from their primal ancestors, who stretched as a way to ready their bodies to roam their domain.
A good morning stretch gets the blood flowing, strengthens the rear muscle, and prepares the body to run.
The contraction and lengthening of the muscles also results in the activation of the brain-muscle connection while relaxing the dog’s body and mind to better achieve the task ahead—a necessity millennia ago for all the hunting and brawling.
Today, the morning stretch is performed by dogs to get their muscles warm before any sort of physical activity, such as a walk. You may see such behavior when you bring out the leash or harness, which are objects that they’ve come to associate with walks.
As mentioned earlier, greeting you is one of the most common reasons behind your dog’s stretch. This posture, with the rear in the air and the front legs stretched out, looks like your dog is bowing down to you, and is sometimes accompanied by a toss of the head and a yawn.
This is one of the stretches that your dog will commonly do on you to ensure that they have all your attention. The closer to you that the stretch is performed, the more driving the need for attention, so stretching on you is the ultimate attention-seeker!
Dogs may also stretch on their owners to indicate that they want to play. A play stretch is similar to a greeting stretch, but the tail wag is more exaggerated in this one, often to the extent of the whole rear wagging instead of just the tail!
Your dog may also prod you with their paws or press them on your legs if they’re feeling extra chirpy or they want to convince you to play with them.
This action is your doggo initiating playtime, with the ideal response being you continuing playtime, either by tossing them their favorite toy or standing up to play with them.
Sometimes, your dog could be stretching for pain relief, especially any sort of abdominal pain (canine bloat is a common cause). If your dog is stretching excessively and also exhibits other signs of distress, such as aggression or drooling, you should take them to the vet right away.
Another pain that dogs hope to relieve by stretching is joint stiffness, especially common in older dogs. However, dogs who have been stationary for a while also tend to stretch to relieve stiffness.
Sometimes, the only reason to stretch is that it makes you feel good! Dogs are just the same, stretching to feel good when necessary.
Does it mean something more if your dog is stretching on you instead of on the ground?
As mentioned earlier, stretching on you is a call for your attention. The closer your dog is to you while stretching, the stronger the need for your attention.
Additionally, dogs define personal space differently than their hoomans. So, where you would ask someone to politely give you space, your dog would simply stretch on you—he lacks the ability to tell you to move out of the way so that he can stretch, in any case.
Many times, it’s also just your dog being lazy! They’d just rather stretch on you than take the effort of moving away to stretch. However, such behavior is only exhibited with people they’re really comfortable with, so it is something to feel good about if your dog should choose to stretch on you.
Also Read: Why Do Dogs Lay On Your Feet?
Since dogs stretch in the same posture regardless of the reason, it can be quite hard to figure out what exactly it is that they’re trying to convey with their stretch.
In such situations, always consider the context. Are you returning home after a period of separation from your pet? What state of mind or mood is your doggo in? Do his features seem relaxed? Is your dog an older dog? Answers to questions like these may help you identify the reason behind your dog’s stretching.
Should You Worry About Being Stretched On?
Not at all, unless your dog stretching on you is hurting you, either due to its size or its claws, or if you just don’t like being stretched on, either due to all the leftover hair on your clothes or possible tears and scratches on your skin and clothes.
It can also be a cause for concern if your large dog is stretching out on a small child. Dogs don’t often know their own strength and won’t realize that they’re hurting the person.
You should also worry about stretching if your dog is doing it excessively, as this could be a sign of abdominal pain.
How Do You Respond to Being Stretched On?
If you don’t mind being stretched on and are willing to satisfy your furball’s need for attention, you can respond positively by scratching behind the ears, speaking in a warm voice, and even hugging your dog if he’s open to it.
You could also initiate a bit of play by throwing a toy, or stand up to see if your dog wants a walk or needs something (food or water).
If you’re not too fond of being stretched on, you should work on changing your dog’s behavior. Gently but firmly push away your dog when he’s stretching on you. You could also just walk away or train him to get off with a command.
When your dog sees that there are no rewards to a certain behavior, he will learn that it is unwelcome and eventually stop exhibiting it.
While dogs define boundaries and personal space differently, it is possible to teach them your idea of the two concepts. If you feel like you’re not able to train your dog properly to get off you, a professional trainer can help.
Also Read: Why Does My Dog Lay On Me and Sleep?
Stretching is a part of the routine for all dogs and as you’ve seen, there are many reasons behind it.
Even if you don’t like being stretched on, remember that you can’t stop the stretching and neither should you try to—you can only take steps to ensure that the stretching isn’t happening on you or in your personal space.
This will work best for you and furball and ensure your long-term happiness.