Benefits of Balance Training Your Dog

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This week, we continue our discussion of an optimal fitness program for your dog and are highlighting the fourth component:  balance training your dog.

 

What is balance?

According to Wikipedia, in biomechanics, balance is an ability to maintain the line of gravity (vertical line from centre of gravity) of a body within the base of support with minimal postural sway.  In practical terms, we define balance as the ability to sense and control the body’s position in space, both while stationary or while moving.

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Jack on the balance cushion. Maggie patiently waiting her turn.

 Sensory inputs effecting balance

The brain receives three different types of sensory input that help determine the body’s position:

  1. Visual – feedback on what the eyes see
  2. Vestibular- feedback on what the ears sense and how these signals relate to the feeling of equilibrium
  3. Somatosensory –  what we like to call the “touch” sensory input, this is feedback on pressure, vibration, and position and movement relative to other body parts, from the skin, joints, tendons, and muscles.

These three inputs work together for optimal balance and reactive skills.  As you might imagine, older dogs with impaired hearing or vision are likely to have compromised balance skills.

 Benefits of Balance Training Your Dog

There are numerous benefits to balance training your dog and these benefits apply to humans as well.  These benefits include:

  • Reduced injury risk- good balance skills mean that your dog will be able to maintain better body control while moving and thus, protect themselves (instinctively) from bad positions that can cause injury.
  • Improved athletic or sport performance- better balance translates directly to better athletic performance.  A good example is the agility dogs who must navigate through obstacles without falling or misstepping.
  • Core development and strength- good balance requires a strong core, which is normally active while the dog is stabilizing their body when off balance.  A strong core and strong balance skills go hand in hand.
  • Improved overall body strength- for a dog, just like a human, power transfers through the core.  Joseph Pilates said it best when he described the core as the body’s “powerhouse”.
  • Reduced signs of aging- taking all of the above mentioned benefits together, the end result can be that older dogs are able to maintain a ‘youthful’ quality of life even as they move into their senior years.  Keeping their balance sensory inputs well trained can delay deterioration of these abilities.
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Jack on the wobble board. He had a little trouble with the concept of back feet on the board…he thought butt on the board would be good enough.

Example balance exercises for your dog

Most balance exercises require the use of an unstable surface.  Balance cushions, peanuts, swiss or bosu balls, or wobble boards are the most frequently used devices for dogs. They are a very good investment and you can use them for your own balance and fitness programs as well.

If you don’t have access to this type of equipment there are alternatives such as wood blocks, rocks, and logs.  We will talk more about these alternatives in an upcoming post.

Two of our favorite balance drills incorporate the balance cushion and the wobble board.

Cushion Stability Drill

Have your dog place their front paws on a balance cushion while standing.  With their back straight and aligned, have them hold their position on the cushion for 10 seconds or more.  That counts a 1 rep.  Do 4-5 times.

Repeat with the back legs on the cushion.

Wobble Stability Drill

Have your dog place their front paws on a wobble or balance board while standing.  With their back straight and aligned, have them hold their position on the cushion for 10 seconds or more.  That counts a 1 rep.  Do 4-5 times.

Repeat with the back legs on the board.

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Maggie likes to supervise all of Steve’s exercise routines – he tries to cheat too often. She makes sure he doesn’t.

 
Sources and further reading:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balance_(ability)
 

fitDogFriday_avatarPlease enjoy our FitDog Friday Blog Hop brought to you by SlimDoggy and our co-hosts Peggy’s Pet Place and To Dog With Love. Join the Hop or just enjoy the links below – lots of fun fitness tips and advice!

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26 Comments

  1. Jack’s so good at that! And good job on the supervising, Maggie!
    Jackie Bouchard recently posted…K9 Kamp is Back!My Profile

    • She’s so funny – she wants to be involved in everything, but still leery about getting too close.
      mkob recently posted…Benefits of Balance Training Your DogMy Profile

  2. I’ve been looking for a ball for Mr. N to practice on. We do tricks that build his balance skills like beg, walking on his hind legs, and spinning on his hind legs.
    Tenacious Little Terrier recently posted…FitDog Friday #7 – HibernationMy Profile

  3. Love the balancing act – both dog and human – who would have guessed that it’s so important to our health. Like Maggie’s supervising role in the last shot too…..Happy FitDog Friday
    Paws and Pedals (Kate & Scooter) recently posted…5 Reasons why Holidays with Dogs Rock!!My Profile

  4. Those look like great exercises. Our dogs have good balance over all. I could use some balance work…lol.
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…Follow-up Friday 10-4-13My Profile

  5. Hi Y’all!

    Guess as we get older we need to exercise for balance. The Humans personal trainer gives them balance exercises to do…time for my Human to help me, don’t you think?

    Y’all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog
    Hawk aka BrownDog recently posted…Follow Up and Get Fit TooMy Profile

  6. Those photos made us laugh…it looks like the dogs hired you to teach them and they are paying such good attention to what you are telling/showing them. Bailie is working on balance on her own, trying not to fall over when she trips on her long ears 🙂
    emma recently posted…Welcome K9 Kampers | GBGV | K9 Kamp Fall 2013My Profile

    • Don’t let their attentiveness fool you…he has treats 😉
      I can just see Bailie running around stepping on those ears!
      mkob recently posted…Benefits of Balance Training Your DogMy Profile

  7. Balance work – of course you know we are “on board” with it! Just a few minutes a day has such a big impact on the joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments! Great overall conditioning tool!

  8. Great tips… and photos too! We used our wobble board in our post last Friday. Looks like I need to get on the board myself!
    Diane recently posted…Learning Agility Handling SkillsMy Profile

  9. Really great ideas. I think dogs in general could use a little more awareness of their bodies, and these balance exercises really encourage them to do that. My dog is pretty awkward, but I’m often impressed with his awareness and balance. Your dogs are so cute in this pictures. Always ready to go to work!

  10. I’m so glad you wrote about this today…I’ve been watching Gizmo work on his core during our recent paddleboard and kayak trips. The more we do I see him getting stronger and more confident with his balance and body awareness.
    GizmoGeodog recently posted…Kayaking Is for the Dogs… #K9 Kamp Fall SessionMy Profile

  11. These are some great exercises! I’m guess this might also help Luna not feel as nervous in elevators. Where do you get the equipment for balance training?
    Beagles and Bargains recently posted…Get Active OctoberMy Profile

    • You can get it at most any fitness store – or even Target or Walmart in the human fitness section. I hate shopping, so I get all my stuff on Amazon.
      mkob recently posted…Benefits of Balance Training Your DogMy Profile

  12. Great post. More and more research showing these sort of balance exercises good for humans and dogs. Thanks x TH

  13. Maggie makes a great supervisor, and Jack did great with the demonstrations! We got a balance cushion over the summer, and Cricket and I worked with it a little bit during rainy weather when we couldn’t walk or run. I tried it too….Cricket did much better than I did! 🙂
    We are going to spend some more time with it, especially over the winter, so appreciate the demonstrations.
    Jan K recently posted…This ‘N That Thursday – StoriesMy Profile

  14. I would have never thought to do this with our dogs. Thanks for the tips to help us get started.
    Kimberly Gauthier recently posted…Celebrating DogToberFest with 1-800-PetMeds and a FURminatorMy Profile

  15. This is totally new to us but it looks like fun and beneficial.
    jan recently posted…Is this the Poodle skirt of the 21st century?My Profile

  16. This looks like a great idea, I bet Duke would enjoy it too!
    Jessica recently posted…Apple Picking with a DogMy Profile

  17. These are some great tips to get people started on improving their dog’s balance.

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