Fitness training for dogs
My experience is that by doing varying exercise, mentally and physically my dogs are healthy, strong and well. We do different exercise such as agility, hiking, swimming, pulling and training to improve strength. Strength training is especially important for dogs doing highly strenuous activities such as agility.
Stretching and warm up
I always start our strength training with easy stretching exercises to activate and warm up the muscles. They are don’t at a slow pace and if needed I support the dogs body to ensure it remains in balance. Position changes can also be used as a part of the warm up.
Different muscle groups
Our dogs have different muscle groups just as us humans. My focus is training the core muscles at home. These muscles are the stabilizers in the dog’s body (back and stomach especially). Core muscles are important for prevent injuries, the dogs balance and when doing heavy strenuous activities. When training, I would recommend using intervals, for example 30 seconds working and 30 seconds’ rest. Start of easy and increase difficulty as the dog becomes stronger and more secure. These are the exercises I use for my dogs;
The ball is supported by a couch or a wall (as well as my legs) while the dog stands on top of the ball doing exercises such as “sit like a bear”, paw, stomp and other changes of position. The less air in the ball the harder it is for you dog. I use a normal yoga ball for people but there is also special equipment for dogs (search for FitPaws). In the beginning, I like to have the ball near a couch so the dog can go from the couch to the ball instead of jumping directly from the floor.
Fitpaws Pods and balance board
There are several exercises to do with FitPaws and balance board (search on YouTube for inspiration). I use a balance board for people and have put anti-slip mat on top of it to ensure a good grip for my dogs. You can easily vary the difficulty with the number of paws on the board and use it together with FitPaws pods. If your dog is new to training balance and strength it can be smart to support the balance board in the beginning to avoid too rapid movement for your dog.
My newest addition to our strength training is a foam roller. I use this to combine balance and coordination by teaching my dogs to roll the roller forward using their front paws and eventually we will try using the hind feet as well.