Cross Training Canine Fitness Components

When an exercise program includes each of these components, all systems of the body are trained to work at optimal levels, preventing compensation in one area that may lead to injury.

Posture, Balance & Core Stability

Core stability is defined by having the stabilizer strength to maintain equilibrium and postural control of the spine, pelvis, and scapula during both static and dynamic exercise without compensatory movement that may lead to pain or injury.

Most dogs (like humans) have “lazy” posture – which can either cause or be caused by injuries or imbalances within the body. 

Stability training not only strengthens your dog’s core muscles, but also the stabilizer muscles surrounding the other joints throughout the body such as the carpal joints, elbow joints, stifle joints, tarsal joints and so on, preventing injury in these areas as well.

Canine Strength Training

Muscular imbalances are the #1 predictor of an injury.

Muscle imbalances involve the affected muscle(s) performing roles outside of their normal physiological function and thereby placing abnormal forces throughout the body. 

Canine strength training can both correct and prevent muscular imbalances by integrating the bodily systems to move optimally with appropriate weight distribution.

Strength training not only improves the strength of the muscles, but also the tendons, ligaments and bones as well – helping to hold the body in proper alignment and prevent injury.

Strength training can also prevent ‘slip & fall’ type injuries by training the dog’s body how to quickly react to external forces that may otherwise predispose the dog’s muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints to strain/sprain, fractures, and other types of injuries.

Body Awareness

Body awareness is your dog’s ability to understand their body position “in space”, and knowing how to correctly facilitate movement.

Increased body awareness helps to develop adequate coordination, improves movement, and prevents the likelihood of accidental injuries.

Body awareness is a learned skill – most dogs actually have very little awareness of their backend, let alone that they can back up, sidestep, and move their limbs independently of each other!

Cardiorespiratory Canine Conditioning

Cardiovascular conditioning improves heart and lung efficiency, enhances blood flow, and helps maintain a healthy body weight.

Although cardiovascular training has plenty of benefits, it is highly recommended that each dog (and human) participates in a well rounded cross training program that goes beyond simply walking or running alone.
Strengthening and stabilizing the muscles throughout the body that are underused/weak (including “the core”) while stretching the muscles that are overused/tight will decrease muscular imbalances while reducing the risk of injuries.
Most successful *human* runners follow a well designed cross training program in order to improve performance and decrease the likelihood of overtraining/injuries.  There is no reason to think that our canine athletes should be any different!


Including safe stretches at the appropriate times such as dynamic/active stretches before exercise and static/passive stretches after exercise helps to prevent stiffness, muscle knots and soreness (yes – dogs get sore muscles too!).

Long term, flexibility exercises increase the health and elasticity of muscle fibers while preventing restrictions and imbalances within the muscle tissue itself as well as the surrounding tendons and joints.  Not only do flexible muscles decrease the risk of injury, they also increase the body’s available range of motion thereby enhancing athletic performance.

Three-Dimensional Movement Efficiency

We live in a three-dimensional world therefore a well designed exercise program should be correctly balanced in all 3 anatomical planes of movement in order to reduce the risk of injuries and improve performance.

The 3 Anatomical Planes of Movement for Quadrupeds (Canines & Felines) include:

  • The Median Plane which cuts through the spine and divides the body into left & right halves.  This includes movements that involve joint flexion & extension; including forwards, backwards, up, and down movements.Exercise examples include: Sit to Stands, Back Up, Jumping
  • The Dorsal Plane which cuts through the spine, dividing the body into “belly & back” sections.
    For dogs this is top & bottom halves, and includes movements that involve lateral bending through the spine, as well as internal & external rotation of the limbs.
    Exercise examples include: Spin/Circle, Weaves, Handler weight shifting towards the midline
  • The Transverse Plane which transects the spine in half.  For dogs this is front & back halves, and includes movements that involve rotation through the spine, as well as limb abduction and adduction. Exercise examples include: Sidestepping, Pivots, Limb lift into abduction

Please note:  The above is in reference to quadrupeds such as canines & felines.  The planes of movement and their corresponding actions are slightly different in humans who are bipeds and stand upright.

All too often exercise routines lack the correct balance of three-dimensional movements, and this imbalance may increase the likelihood of injury, while also hindering sport performance.

A qualified trainer understands the importance of building three-dimensional movement efficiency in all anatomical planes to keep the body working as a stable and functional whole.

Dog Massage & Canine Bodywork

Incorporating dog massage and canine bodywork into your dog’s routine offers numerous benefits. Massage helps to decrease muscular tension, stiffness, and soreness, improves range of motion, increases blood circulation, and promotes overall posture, structure, and alignment. Massage also aids in restoring normal movement patterns, improving performance, and reducing recovery time. Additionally, consent-based massage can enhance tolerance to touch and cooperative care skills.