It is truly amazing to me how many athletic dogs can run agility but are lacking foundational strength in the core and spine.
You will find these dogs have less power to jump and so will have less optimal form, will sometimes knock bars, and will be injured more frequently.
Older dogs with pain prohibiting use of all their legs in transitions have a harder time getting up off of the floor. These are going to be your go-to exercises for life!
Exercise #3 - Spine extension - standing and laying + pelvic rocking
Spine and hip stretch + rear limb weight bearing
you will need a book, ottoman, or step that is about 25% of your dog’s leg length to start with.
Put it on a stable surface where it will not slide. You will want some great treats for this – get a handful or a frozen treat.
1. Ask your dog to put “Paws up” and lure them up on to the step with the front feet on it
2. Lead them into hip and spine stretch
3. Start with 10 sec and work up to 60 sec hold (it will take a few reps and even a few days to improve flexibility)
4. Then shift the food backward at a head neutral height to encourage stable standing on the back feet. Work up to standing there for 60 sec per session.
Lower spine extension and hip flexion
A handful of good food or frozen treat
1. Ask your dog to slowly lay down and the lure them forward to flatten the lower back
2. Ask them to stretch for 5-10 sec but give them a break after that (think about difficultly from you trying to touch your toes), then start again
3. Work up to 30-60 sec hold and 2-3 repetitions
1. If they kick a leg out or roll to the side, know that it means something is not comfortable or is tight in the spine or pelvis, you may need a little help with pain relief and flexibility for them –see your rehab vet.
2. If we have managed any pain by exam and planning and we are working up to this exercise, proceed slowly and know that some days may be better than others.
3. If your dog can’t do this due to hip issues or other, practice the stretch in standing or with a tall elevated stand (see Louie Above in pictures). Come see me for more directions.
Independent leg strength + core strength Prep: scratch your dog’s belly from armpit to groin to engage the core muscles
Communicate to your dog:
Ask your dog to “Stand” for you while you work on their balance
Make sure your body is in a good position, try not to lean over your dog, sometimes I even sit behind them on the ground.
1. Start with the front feet! Lift each foot to have your dog balance on three feet
2. Hold for 5 -15 seconds increasing time over a week or two as your dog gets stronger.
3. As this starts to be easy, repeat the exercise three times.
Need a video?
1. No need to hold the foot high to start with
2. Dogs who hate having their feet touch will sometimes accept a washcloth to “clean their feet” – use that as your daily tool.
3. Dogs who can’t do this are pretty weak in their ability to stand up well, please see your veterinarian and rehab team!
4. If this is too hard for your dog or your own body to do – we will consider some mattress exercises. If so, move on to the next exercise for now.
5. If your dog is squirmy – use a snuffle mat or lick mat to feed them treats, but put it at neutral head height to keep the spine in good posture.
We forget that while running and walking are good for your heart and metabolism, but not necessarily whole body strength! We need to cross train with strength exercises for our joint stability and overall strength in movement to be physically fit!!
This is true for your Super Dog too! I will give you a few you should do every day after a walk to get into a good routine!