One of the first criteria I look at with a dog in my rehabilitation setting is if it can stand still for ten seconds. Whether it is an eight-week old puppy or an eighteen-year-old veteran, the ability to stand for ten seconds or the inability will provide a lot of significant information. A dog not comfortable due to a conformation issue, pain, or weakness will shift their weight. Very often, the dog will shift their weight to unweight a specific limb. To me, it is a red flag in the conformation ring if a stacked dog cannot stand still for at least ten seconds. It makes me think of weakness or an asymmetry.
Dogs may not be able to stand still for many reasons. Weakness is certainly one of them. However, it may also be due to pain, an imbalance or growth. I compare growing dogs to my children– as they continue to go through growth spurts, they are often not comfortable in their bodies, so they constantly shift their weight. A simple thing like a blister on someone’s foot may cause a person to shift weight to the other foot; a simple thing like an overgrown nail may cause a dog to shift weight to the other foot.
If your dog cannot stand still for ten seconds, it will be important to determine why. Is it weakness, posture, pain, or growth? In building a strengthening program, standing still is the first priority—planting all four paws and keeping them there regardless of physical or mental forces or distractions. If a dog cannot stand still, they will not be able to move along with a successful exercise program whether the ultimate goal is conformation or agility. Every activity a dog participates in requires static, or “standing-still” strength BEFORE working towards dynamic strengthening movements.
Try this yourself: Plant your feet firmly on the ground about 12” apart and gently rock your weight back and forth while keeping your feet in place. Now do the same while allowing your feet to come off the ground (when you shift left, your right foot comes up and visa-versa). In which exercise do you feel your core muscles working the most? Which exercise requires more core muscle control? THIS is why your dog needs to Stand Still while weight shifting–to get the most benefit out of the motion.
Static strength focuses on the Type I muscle fibers, or the postural fibers. Fortunately, these are some of the easiest fibers to strengthen, but unfortunately, they are the first fibers to atrophy. Days of crate rest or inactivity can result in significant loss of strength. This is something to think about when a dog is crate rested for any injury.
Fortunately, this loss can be regained very quickly. Working on standing still initially on a flat surface is a key exercise. This may be performed any place or anywhere. Standing still for ten seconds before eating, before going outside, etc., is something anyone can incorporate into a program. Or it can be part of your basic obedience training, such as ‘stand for exam’ or even a ‘moving stand.’ Whether it is a pup, athletic dog, or a super senior, this is something simple any dog can do.
Standing Still on the Ground: once the dog places itself in a comfortable position, it should be able to hold that position without moving its paws for 10, 20, 30 seconds.
Standing Still on the Disk: progressions will include uneven surfaces, such as a K-9 Kore Disk or BISkit. Work with one piece of equipment, then two, and then increase the time and incorporate some simple weight shifting motions: play touch, luring with food, etc.
Standing Still on Infinity MountainTM: progress up the Core Strengthening Pyramid to include uneven and unstable surfaces. Increase the time of the stand and incorporate head and body movements. The happy dog in the video wags his tail to create his own weight shifting motion!
I have had many owners surprised when their ‘top’ competitive dogs cannot stand still for ten seconds—and while this is often inherent in the breed and a positive with regard to the job the dog was bred to do, it’s not conducive to building core muscles efficiently. These dogs may have wonderful Type II or dynamic strength, but they are lacking the core strength needed to successfully continue in their career with minimal injuries.
I expect competitive dogs to be able to stand on an uneven surface for at least thirty seconds, up to three to five times in a row. I know it is not the most exciting exercise but it is the most important!
Keeping it Simple,
** You should always consult with a veterinarian before starting any exercise program with your dog.
And the ultimate standing still on an unstable surface, 85 cm off the ground: