Exercises

Dog Exercise

Front Paws On

Front paws on an obstacle between the height of the dogs carpus (wrist) and shoulder.

Form:

  • Front paws under shoulders
  • Back flat; for the breed
  • Hocks vertical to the ground
  • Feet facing forward and symmetrical left to right

Benefits:

  • Front feet elevated shifts more of the dog’s bodyweight towards their hind end
  • Gentle stretch through the trunk (hypaxials & epaxial muscles), as well as the hip flexors
  • Can help to improve alignment of the pelvis
  • Can help to improve posture and muscular imbalances
  • Improves body awareness & confidence!

back-paws-on

Back Paws On

Back paws on an obstacle approximately the height of the dog’s point of hock

Form:

  • Head in neutral or down (note: when the rear is elevated, lifting the head creates a curve in the spine that should be avoided).
  • Front paws under shoulders
  • Back flat; for the breed
  • Hocks vertical to the ground
  • Feet facing forward and symmetrical left to right

Benefits:

  • Improves hindlimb awareness
  • Shifts the dogs bodyweight forward, strengthening the muscles along the forelegs
  • Gentle stretch through the hypaxial & epaxial muscles of the trunk

plank

Plank

Front feet on 1 obstacle, back feet on a separate 1 obstacle

Form:

  • Front paws under shoulders
  • Back flat (for the breed)
  • Hocks vertical to the ground
  • Feet facing forward

Benefits:

  • Increases body awareness; distinguishes front & rear feet
  • Reinforces good postural muscle memory, which helps to preserve joint integrity and reduce the risk of injuries
  • Engages ‘the core’ and joint stabilizer muscles isometrically
  • Can help with muscular imbalances
  • Will increase flexibility in muscles that are tight/compensating from chronic poor posture

 

All Paws On

All Paws On

All 4 feet standing on 1 obstacle

Form:

  • Forelimbs and hindlimbs tight to the midline of the body (not splayed out to either side)
  • Ideally the dogs hocks are vertical for good standing posture, but the more challenging the obstacle the more likely that the dog will have their feet proximal underneath the body to assist with balance, which is totally fine for this obstacle challenge!
  • Remember to spot your dog by staying at their side and always keep their safety a top priority!
  • Harnesses can be helpful for spotting and helping the dog on/off the obstacle.

Benefits:

  • Increases body awareness
  • Challenges the core and joint stabilizer muscles
  • Can be a fantastic confidence booster!

sit

Sit/Stay

Dog sits on an obstacle in good posture

Form:

  • Front feet under shoulders
  • Back flat/in a diagonal line
  • Hips, knees, and hock joints flexed and tight to the midline of the body
  • Knees over rear toes
  • Ischial tuberosities over point of hock

Benefits:

  • Engages the postural & stabilizer muscles of the sit
  • Increases body awareness
  • Fun confidence builder!

Through

Dog walks through an obstacle (or 2)

Form:

  • Space between the obstacle(s) should be less than the dogs length from nose to tail
  • Space between the obstacle(s)  should be more than the dogs body width; for safety
  • No forcing!  Lures are fine but the dog should be a willing, happy participant

Benefits:

  • Increases body awareness
  • Builds confidence

Crawl

Dog crawls under an obstacle between the height of their shoulder joint and withers

Form:

  • Crawling forward in a straight line
  • Forelimbs and hindlimbs tight to the midline of the body
  • Looking for individual leg movement.. no hopping of the rear legs (this likely means the dog is moving too fast or the object is too low)
  • Want the hips, knees, and hock joints to flex forward.. and then extend backwards, getting full ROM
  • Belly shouldn’t be touching the ground (this means the object is too low)

Benefits:

  • Strengthens the thoracic limbs as they pull the dog forward
  • Engages the latissimus dorsi muscle, similar to a human pullup
  • Engages “the core”
  • Engages the muscles of the pelvic limbs as the joint segments flex forward and extend backwards (quadriceps, hamstrings, gastrocnemius, gluteus, etc.)
  • Encourages straight forward movement in the sagittal plane of motion
  • Challenges coordination as the dog has to simultaneously pull with their forelimbs and push with their hindlimbs.

Back Up

Dog backs up using an obstacle.  They can back up onto an obstacle, back up off of an obstacle, back up through an obstacle, etc.

Form:

  • With the dog in good standing posture, have both of your hands together at the level of their mouth, and then gently step towards them.. As soon as a back paw takes a step backwards say “Yes!” and give them a treat.
  • If your dog sits then your hand placement is likely too high
  • Move slow and with control, encouraging one leg stepping back at a time.
  • Posture is upright; dog isn’t crawling backwards

Benefits:

  • Rear end awareness
  • Strengthens the caudal muscles of the pelvic limbs, including the hamstrings, gluteals, and gastrocnemius
  • Functional core stability exercise in the sagittal plane of movement

Jump

Dog can jump over an obstacle, or jump onto an obstacle, or jump from 1 obstacle to another obstacle, etc.

Form:

  • Handler’s should spot their dog with a harness
  • Handler can pick their dog up OFF of the obstacle (preferred for puppies, seniors, long backed dogs etc.)
  • Puppies should avoid jumping down from heights until their growth plates have closed.

Benefits:

  • Increases power (speed-strength)⁣⁣
  • Trains the muscles to move from extension to contraction in a rapid, explosive manner⁣⁣
  • Strengthens the entire body including the hip flexors & extensors, core, and forelimbs⁣⁣
  • Increases metabolic rate⁣

Side Step

Dog side steps across an obstacle using front feet, back feet, or all feet

Form:

  • Feet facing forward and parallel ⁣⁣
  • Dog stays up on their front feet (not dropping down onto their “forearms”) ⁣⁣
  • Head in neutral⁣⁣
  • Back is flat (not rounded or arched)⁣⁣
  • Spine stays straight, minimal angle/torque; dog moving front & rear at similar pace⁣⁣
  • Slow and controlled⁣⁣

Benefits:

  • Strengthens the muscles along the transverse plane, an often overlooked component of injury prevention⁣⁣
  • Strengthens the muscles of the inner and outer forelimbs (chest and shoulders)⁣⁣
  • Strengthens the muscles of the inner and outer hindlimbs (adductors and abductors) ⁣⁣
  • Strengthens the “core” stabilizer muscles surrounding the trunk/spine, shoulders, and pelvis⁣⁣
  • Improves body awareness and coordination⁣⁣
  • Mentally stimulating while challenging the muscles in a unique way

Circle

Dog circles around an obstacle(s) in both directions

Form:

  • All 4 feet should remain on the ground
  • Dog circles around 1 obstacle in both directions, or can figure-8/weave around multiple obstacles

Benefits:

  • Active Range of Motion Exercise; Lateral flexion lengthens the muscles along the outside of the curve (paraspinals, obliques, latissimus dorsi)
  • Lateral flexion; engages the muscles along the inside of the curve (epaxials, obliques, latissimus dorsi)
  • Strengthens the adductor & abductor muscles of both the thoracic & pelvic limbs, in the dorsal plane of movement
  • Increases awareness of limb placement
  • Improves balance and coordination