Exercises

Front Paws On

Front paws on an obstacle between the height of the dogs wrist and shoulder

Form:

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

Benefits:

  • Increases body awareness
  • Shifts the dogs bodyweight backwards, strengthening the hindlimbs
  • If held for duration will activate the core and stabilizer muscles as well.

Back Paws On

Back paws on an obstacle approximately hock height

Form:

  • Head in neutral or down (not up!)
  • Front paws under shoulders
  • Back flat; for the breed
  • Hock straight to the ground
  • Feet facing forward and symmetrical left to right

Benefits:

  • Increases hindlimb awareness
  • Shifts the dogs bodyweight forward, strengthening the forelimbs
  • If held for duration will challenge the core and stabilizer muscles as well.

Plank

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

Form:

  • Front paws under shoulders
  • Back flat (for the breed)
  • Hock joint straight to the ground
  • Feet facing forward

Benefits:

  • Increases body awareness; distinguishes front & rear feet
  • Strengthens the core and joint stabilizer muscles isometrically while improving postural control
  • Will increase flexibility in muscles that are tight/compensating from chronic poor posture

 

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/Stay

Dog sits on an obstacle in good posture

Form:

  • Front feet are under shoulders⁣
  • Elbows are tight to the body⁣
  • Back is flat (for the breed)⁣
  • Hips, knees, and hocks are flexed⁣ and tight to the body
  • Feet facing forward⁣

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 ~below shoulder height

Form:

  • Moving forward in a straight line
  • Forelimbs and hindlimbs tight to the midline of the body
  • Hips, knees, and hock joints (at least partially) flexed while going under the obstacle

Benefits:

  • Improves coordination as the dog simultaneously pulls with their forelimbs and pushes with their hindlimbs
  • The pulling of the forelimbs strengthens the latissimus dorsi in a similar motion to the human pull-up
  • The pushing of the hindlimbs works the flexor & extensor muscles of the hip, stifle, and hock joints; with concentric & eccentric muscle contractions
  • Fantastic for strengthening the entire body including the core musculature

Back Up

Dog backs up using an obstacle (see below)

Form:

  • Dog can back up onto an obstacle, back up off of an obstacle, back up through an obstacle, etc.
  • Posture is upright; dog isn’t crawling backwards

Benefits:

  • Increases body awareness especially of the hindlimbs
  • Improves coordination
  • Strengthens the hip extensor muscles (hamstrings & gluteals)
  • Improves core stability
  • Working on straightening of the backup will improve muscular imbalances

Jump

Dog jumps using an obstacle (see below)

Form:

  • Dog can jump over an obstacle, or jump onto an obstacle, or jump from 1 obstacle to another obstacle, etc.
  • Handler can 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 <6 months old should not jump higher than wrist height;
Puppies <18 months old should not jump higher than elbow height.

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:

  • Dynamically stretches the muscles along the back in lateral flexion
  • Increases awareness of limb placement
  • Improves balance and coordination
  • Works the muscles along the coronal plane, an often overlooked component of injury prevention