Updated: Sep 21, 2018
How many times have you heard from your doctor or fitness trainer that the stronger your tummy is the better your back will be?
How about how important good posture is for your spine and stomach?
The same rules apply to our dogs!
When our dog's core muscles (the belly and back area) are strong and in good shape, the entire body is better supported. This also means less stress on the joints and better balance when working or playing -which means less chance of injury!
How Do I Strengthen My Dog's Core?
There are some very easy exercises that you can do with your dog to help strengthen their core muscles.
The first thing you should do, however, is check with your Veterinarian to be sure it is safe to perform these exercises - even as basic as they are, if your dog has any type of injury or soreness, always clear exercises with your Veterinarian.
How Do I Begin?
After getting the all clear from your Vet, you can begin!
Here are 4 things you can start doing to help strengthen the core:
Teach your dog a proper sit and have him hold that position;
Teach a down in the sphynx position and have him hold that position;
Teach your dog to go from a proper sit to a stand; and
Teach your dog to go from a sphynx down to a stand.
What is a Proper Sit and a Sphynx Down?
When your dog is sitting, his rear feet should be underneath him, back straight and not leaning on a hip. You can help your dog straighten out his hips by having his neck stretch just a little bit when reaching for the treat. Notice the spine and hips straightening? Think good posture.
The down should have the rear legs very close to the body or underneath. Start by luring the dog from a standing position to the down. By allowing the dog to lick the food as you slowly move your hand at an angle to the dog's toes and wait them out. It may take a bit, but they will fold backward into a down.
Be patient! Check out my YouTube video on how to teach this! https://youtu.be/I7IcOamSlso
Once your dog can do a proper sit and down, now have them hold those positions, starting with 3-5 seconds and building up to 5-10 seconds.
Adding the Stand!
As soon as your dog can do a proper sit and down you can also add in the stand. Slowly lure your dog from each position into a stand by angling your hand out and up while your dog is licking the food. The goal is to get them to go into a stand without moving their feet. This will take time though - they need to build strength for this.
Can My Puppy or Older Dog do These?
Puppies can definitely benefit from these exercises but as their bones and muscles are still growing, and growth plates are not closed, I would recommend only doing 2 of each exercise and then give your puppy a break. You can also vary which ones you do each day. For example, if you only work on a balanced sit or down you could do 3-4 of each. If you add in the stand, I would drop it down to 2 of each.
For senior dogs, again, make sure to check with your Vet before doing these. Depending on the condition of your dog I would start with the reps for the puppies but every other day and see how they do. We don't want to create soreness. If your dog is doing well after the first week, you can do these daily and slowly build up to 4- of each.
Every puppy and dog is different so please watch for signs that your dog is not wanting to do the exercises or is now having trouble. This may mean you are doing too much.
A strong core helps with better balance, supports the dog's body better and can help prevent injury!
It's important for all dogs whether sport, working or pet dogs!