You know that having a strong core is good for you. The same applies to your dog!
A strong core goes beyond the doggy “6-pack”.
Daily tasks like sitting, standing, bending to pee and poo, all need core muscles.
The stronger the core muscles are, the more comfortable your dog and the less likely he will suffer a muscular injury.
The core covers all the muscles that lie close to the centre of the body.
These muscles stabilise the trunk, spine and pelvis. A strong core is VERY important for ALL dogs.
BENEFITS OF STRONG CORE MUSCLES IN DOGS
- Decreases incidence of injuries associated with osteoarthritis and other soft tissue issues.
- Supports the back muscles, which in turn supports the spine and entire body.
- Maintains balance.
- Stabilizes the lower back. This allows the pelvis, hips and the lower back to work together – smoothly.
- Enhances flexibility.
- Improves performance, coordination and posture.
SIGNS YOUR DOG HAS A WEAK CORE
- Poor posture such as a dippy topline.
- Poor balance. Check your dog’s balance. In a stand, lift each leg so your dog is standing on 3 legs.
- Excessive swaying in backend movement.
- Difficulty transitioning from positions such as sitting to standing.
- Inability to hold a sit stay or stand stay.
HERE ARE 16 EXERCISES TO STRENGTHEN YOUR DOG’S CORE
Good news! Core exercises don’t require specialized equipment.
Here are some exercises you can do at home to give your dog a core of steel.
5-10 repetitions daily is a good start. Increase repetitions slowly.
- work on a non-slip surface.
- make sure your dog is healthy and injury free first!
- apply your mind in each exercise – never force your dog into an exercise or position
Most important of all, make it fun!
1. Walking on uneven surfaces. This causes your dog to shift its body weight and engage his core muscles. Build your own obstacle course using cushions and bedding.
2. Walking up and down hills.
3. Walking backwards. This exercise, while fairly simple, helps with balance and hindlimb strength.
4. Stand-stay. Hold the position for up to ten seconds or longer.
5. While standing, use a lure (e.g. food treat) to encourage the dog to turn its head in different directions to follow the food. Hold the treat at his shoulder and then his hip. Work both sides.
6. Leg lifts. Lift one leg for 5-10 seconds and then place it back on the ground. Rotate with each of your dog’s legs. As you dog becomes stronger, Increase the time for each leg lift.
This is a good one for puppies. They learn spatial awareness and how their body fits into the world around them. It improves balance while they grow.
7. Doggie Squats. Stand-Sit-Stand. The idea: just as your dog starts to sit, tell them to stand so they use those core muscles.
8. Sit-stand.-down. Changing positions is great for strengthening your dog’s core.
9. Cavalettis. Walk your dog over a series of raised surfaces.
You can use a ladder or a series of boards and PVC pipes.
This exercise requires your dog to lifts its hind legs over each surface. Cavalettis helps improve strength, the range of motion, balance and flexibility.
These aren’t meant to be high obstacles. They are just high enough to get the dog to lift all four legs; it’s the “stepping over”-action that’s important.
Spacing for hurdles = height from your dog’s withers to the ground.
10. Figure 8s. Make smaller and smaller figure eights to increase the effort. This may also be performed between and around your legs.
11. Figure 8s on a hill. Turning of the body on a slope in both directions work the core, balance and weight shifting. Do large figure 8s while trotting your dog on a hill.
14. Cushion exercises (similar to using a balance disc). Have your dog place his front feet on a firm and puffy cushion. Raise the treat above his head and then side to side. Then do the same with his back legs.
16. Rollover. Do this in both directions.
~ from Jackie Crawford of Canine Muscle Works, Australia
Cert. Animal Neuro-Myofascial Release
Cert. Veterinary Thermal Imaging
Cert. Canine Myofunctional Therapy
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Cert. Rocktape Canine Equine course