Back Leg Exercises for your Dog
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.
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.Please enjoy our FitDog Friday Blog Hop brought to you by SlimDoggy and our co-hosts To Dog with Love and My GBGV Life. Join the Hop or just enjoy the links below - lots of fun fitness tips and advice!