Back Leg Exercises for your Dog

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We were recently contacted by a reader who is interested in learning some back leg exercises for their 14 year old dog. It so happens that many dogs tend to have stronger front legs than hind legs. This is because they tend to load their front legs more than they do their hind legs during activity. Many humans have a similar problem as we tend to have strength and mobility discrepancies between our right and left limbs, or imbalances between our anterior and posterior muscles (e.g. quads and hamstrings). For dogs, this relative hind leg weakness can increase injury risk and decrease their mobility. As your dog ages, the disparity in limb strength can become more obvious. We see this often in senior dogs whose back legs begin to bow and buckle while standing, much like our reader reported with his Senior pet.

 

Increasing Back Leg Strength

Targeting your dog’s back legs with specific exercises is a smart strategy. If your dog is older or currently exhibits back leg weakness, back leg exercises should be a regular part of your fitness routine. For all other dog owners, incorporating back leg exercises is a smart way to prevent or minimize back leg weakness as your pet ages.

 

We have previously written posts about ways to target a dog’s back legs. Hill work and squats are two good examples.  Another effective and easy exercise is what we call the Elevated Touch Drill. We perform this exercise almost every evening with our dog Jack and he really enjoys it.

jackbacklegworkout

 

The Elevated Touch Drill for Back Leg Strength

To perform the elevated touch drill, all you need is a platform of some sort so that your dog can get their front legs higher than their back legs. This will increase the weight bearing load of their rear legs. We use an ottoman, a bench, or for an added challenge, a balance cushion like the K9 FitBone from DogTread. You can use anything that is handy such as a chair, or step.

 

Have your dog place both front paws up on the elevated surface so that their bodies are more upright than normal. Once they are in this position, make them hold it for a minimum of 30 seconds. Some dogs, especially older dogs, might not be able to hold it for more than a few seconds. In such cases, don’t be discouraged! Over time and with daily drills, their rear leg strength will increase as will their ability to hold the position.

 

Once your dog can hold the elevated position for at least 30 seconds, challenge their balance by gently pushing on their body, first from the left and then from the right. The idea is to force them to contract their core and their rear legs to stay balanced.

 

For an extra back leg workout, try making them do a partial squat from the elevated position. How do you make your dog do a partial squat? Scratch their back where their tale meets their torso. I can’t guarantee that this will work for all dogs, but it sure does the trick for SlimDoggy Jack. Check out the video of him as he does his partial (mini) squats while doing his back leg work.

 

The higher the elevation, the more intense is the exercise so start with a low platform and work your way up to higher platforms.

 

As always, make sure to check with your vet to make sure that this type of exercise is appropriate for your pet.

 

Try the elevated touch drill and partial squat 5-7 days per week for 1-2 minutes at a time. You can do it while watching TV or just hanging out. Within 4-6 weeks, you should be a noticeable improvement in your dog’s back leg strength.

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35 Comments

  1. Thank you for this exercise, I’m going to pass it on to my friend who is looking for ways to straighten her dogs back legs.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…FitDog Friday~Dove HuntingMy Profile

  2. Hi Y’all!

    Hmmm…my Human says I need to start doing these exercises. I do lots of hills when we’re in the mountains, but the low country is another story.

    Y’all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog
    Hawk aka BrownDog recently posted…Parade of Fun FitnessMy Profile

  3. Katie is doing squats daily and we think it has helped her get stronger on the back end. She does ten a day. This looks good too, but she has trouble getting into a position with her front paw up, it seems to be real tough for her, but we highly recommend squats. She does a minimum of ten in a row on her morning walk and after she does them, Mom says she walks better.
    Emma recently posted…Annual Vet Visit Times Five #GetHealthyHappyMy Profile

  4. I’m going to have to check with the vet about this! Looks like a great exercise, even — or maybe especially — for senior dogs with arthritis in their knees and hips. The walks on the treadmill have helped with their stamina, and Callie’s pain so maybe. Thanks for sharing!!
    Callie, Shadow, and Ducky\\\\\\\’s Mom recently posted…Pedigree Dog Food Recall ExpandedMy Profile

  5. This was a pawfect post for me, so thank you. Mika is 5 years old, so she is still young (ish) but I notice her back legs don’t have much muscle, where my other huskies have tons. I will definitely be trying this with Mika.
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…Do our pets have fears?My Profile

  6. Great tips, especially for those of us with large breed dogs. Hip and rear leg strength/mobility is key.

  7. Whose doggy is that in the photo? From the back it looks just like my Maya. She’s only 7, but it doesn’t hurt to make sure she stays fit as she gets older. Thanks for the info! 🙂
    Dawn recently posted…Preparing for a Road Trip with the DogsMy Profile

  8. Great exercises! If pain is an issue, I found a natural way to help my dogs (both old and young with injuries). It’s a derivative of DMSO that is given to equines. The book is called, “The Miracle of MSM.” Dosage is important (no adverse effects if given too much), but I get the MSM at Wal-mart and it has worked for me, my dogs, and everyone else who takes enough of the MSM for it to work! I like it because it works and there are no side effects, and my dog does not mind because I put all of his pills it in cream cheese.

  9. Jeffie thanks you for this great (and easy) exercise idea! We’re definitely going to try this.
    Sue recently posted…Stormy Day Distraction | Wordless WednesdayMy Profile

  10. Great tips for an easy access exercise. Kilo loves doing this as he likes to climb up on the couch beside me. We also saw that swimming can be great low impact exercise for building muscle, especially for senior dogs. We are lucky to have some great beaches and lakes in summer and an excellent facility nearby in winter.

  11. Thank you for sharing this tip to strengthen a dog’s legs. Many of my readers are looking for exercises like this one for their disabled pets. I will share the link to this story.
    Sharon S. recently posted…WW: Interview With Canine Physical Therapy ExpertMy Profile

  12. Great tips. It is so important to work the back legs. Even just having a dog sit and stand, sit and stand can help strengthen the back legs. I did a lot of that when our Golden was older.
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…The Boy Loves To RunMy Profile

  13. Thank you!! As you know Sampson had ACL surgery and now that he’s been cleared we are told we must work on his back legs and one of the ways they suggested was having him ‘dance’ with me, where he would put his front paws way up on my body, but he’s just not capable of this just yet. I like the idea of this small elevation to work it.

    We are also climbing hills and I will be checking out Slim Doggy Jack’s squats too.
    Jodi recently posted…Follow-Up Friday – September 5, 2014My Profile

  14. We will have to see if Bentley can perform this exercise. Anything to help strengthen his body is a plus.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Choose Natural Balance Dental ChewsMy Profile

  15. This is very good information to have! Thanks for posting!
    Rama’s Mama recently posted…FitDog Friday–Reconnecting Yourself & Your Dog With the OutdoorsMy Profile

  16. Maybe it’s because he’s small but I feel like Mr. N gives his back legs a pretty good workout. He likes to “dance” (twirling around on his back legs) and “hop” (walk a few feet on his hind legs).

  17. Steve,
    Thanks for the Elevated Touch Drill exercise.
    We just started this with Riley today. I also have a variation of the “Dance Exercise” where I straddle Riley’s back and take hold of his torso right under his front legs. I then gently, but firmly lift him into a completely vertical position, making sure his rear paws remain on the ground and that he retains his balance. I hold him in the vertical position for 30 seconds, and then slowly lower him to his natural standing position. I repeat this sequence 3 times. I plan to do this number of reps for 2 or 3 weeks, all the while judging Riley’s progress. I will then increase the time he is standing vertical, and slowly increase the number of reps. Slow, but steady, is the key here! He seems to enjoy doing these.
    It has been hot and very humid here in SE Wisconsin, so we have been cutting back on our trips to the local off-lead dog park this week. With Riley being a double-coated dog, there is no sense risking him getting heat-stroke (or worse). For the last few months, Riley has absolutely refused to go on walks around the neighborhood. After about a block (or after he does his duty) he absolutely refuses to walk forward at all, unless it is to turn around and go straight home. He can be very stubborn about this, but at 14 Y.O. (and 50 lbs.), I guess he has earned the right to make that decision.
    Thanks again,
    Buddy

  18. Great exercise. Have you tried this with a Tripaw’d dog before. Veruca definitely has more strength up front (2 legs) than in the rear (1 leg).
    Mark at DBDT recently posted…Nebraska Notch TrailMy Profile

  19. Great tips! We use our K9 Fitbone for this. It’s the perfect height for Rocco.
    Diane recently posted…Are You as Fit as Your Fido?My Profile

  20. I think about this all the time, since Kobi’s back legs were so weak as he aged. Now with Sheba having arthritis in her front legs, I feel like it’s even more important with her to keep the back ones strong. We won that K9 FitBone, so we’ll be able to start with that for her! We’d been doing the squats, but I need to be more consistent.
    Jan K recently posted…Sepia Saturday – Pretty in PinkMy Profile

  21. I’m going to try this with Ace. I’m not sure if he’ll be able to start out with the full 30 seconds or not. I’ll give it a go and see how he does. I think this is a great idea for strengthening their back legs and for increasing flexibility and balance, too.
    Lindsay recently posted…How do you move on when a dog dies?My Profile

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