Starting your dog’s Core/Balance Fitness program with NO EQUIPMENT!**
RULES to REMEMBER:
- Do no harm – no pain during and after exercise
- Everything needs to be positive
- Everything needs to be safe
Standing for ten seconds without sitting, shifting weight or moving is the first basic exercise in your dog’s core strengthening program. Your dog should be encouraged to stand squarely with approximately sixty to seventy percent of their weight on their front legs and approximately thirty to forty percent of his/her weight on the back legs. Standing square for ten seconds to start will begin to focus on your dogs’ balance, core, and proprioception. Some dogs will not be able to stand for up to ten seconds, but can work up to it – try five seconds and build on that. This should be iniated on the floor and advanced by increasing time. As the dog builds core strength, this can be performed on the K9 Kore Disk and Infinity.
While the dog is standing, he/she should be able to stand squarely and lift their head up and down. This exercise should be performed without sitting or lying down. When the dog looks up while standing, the weight is shifted onto the rear legs and this will increase the strength and awareness of the rear legs. When the dog looks down, the dog will increase the weight on the front legs and increase the strength and awareness of the front legs. This may be progressed with increased repetitions and varying surfaces. These activities may be performed on Infinity’s and K9 Kore Disks.
Sit-to-stand is a key component in canine conditioning. A dog should be encouraged to sit with a nice tight sit without the legs kicking out to the sides. Some dogs may easily be able to do this without too much prompting. Other dogs may need some encouragement to tighten their sit. Start this with repetitions of up to five. This exercise may be incorporated into every day activities, such as asking for five sit-to-stands before eating dinner or going outside. The number of repetitions may be increased as the dog is able. In addition, this exercise may be performed on a variety of surfaces such as the Infinities and the K9 Kore Disks for larger dogs and Wedges for smaller dogs.
Walking backwards is a core muscle activity that every dog should be able to perform. It assists with balance and proprioception of the hindlimbs, as well as the rest of the body. You will find many dogs ‘get stuck’ if they are caught in a tight surface – for example – between a couch and a coffee table. Some figure it out, but some dogs struggle. My own dog often tries to turn around before he realizes he knows how to step backwards! Walking backwards is a relatively simple exercise but may take some dogs longer to master than others!
To start this exercise, chose an area with good footing to prevent slipping or tripping over objects. For example, a matted or carpeted surface works nicely. Tile floors or vinyl floors are often too slippery to start with and may cause the dog problems negotiating the floor.
There are many instructional videos on YouTube that can help you teach your dog how to walk backwards using positive methods, but the goal is for the hindlimb to move backward first. This sounds a lot easier than it actually is. As the dog progresses, the goal will be to increase the distance the dog travels, but as we are increasing the quantity we want to make sure we are maintaining the quality, as well. The dog should be walking straight backwards and not veering off to one side or the other. Some dogs move as if they require an ‘alignment.’ In actuality, this may be indicative of a weakness on one side or a balance deficit. You can work with this by asking them to walk down a narrow hallway, set up two ex pens, or two gates to narrow the path. As the dog continues to feel more comfortable taking steps backwards, begin to perform this activity throughout the day.
Side stepping is another basic beginner core exercise that can be advanced on varying levels. Stepping sideways works on the large muscles on the inside and outside of the legs, specifically the adductors and the abductors that help move the limbs away from and towards the midline of the dog’s body. This activity will also focus on body balance and proprioception, as well as assist with coordination.
You may notice your dog is able to step in one direction more confidently than the other. Try to work on both sides to develop equality on a flat surface. Once the dog is able to take steps symmetrically, the distance may be increased. To further increase the challenge, different surfaces may be utilized to work on lateral or side stepping. For example, this may be performed on grass, sand, another textured surface or on an incline/decline. In addition, the K9 Core Disk and/or Wedges may be used to add increased difficulty.
I’ll talk about SAFETY next time.
** You should always consult with a veterinarian before starting any exercise program with your dog.