Benefits of Core Exercises for your Dog

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fitDogFriday_180x150Previously, we have written about the benefits of strength and cardio training for your dog.  Today we will examine the benefits of core exercises for your dog.  As always, please check with your vet before markedly changing your dog’s exercise regimen.


Core work, although fairly well integrated into the human fitness industry’s vernacular, is somewhat new to the canine fitness world.   Many people still think of their dog’s exercise solely in terms of how long their walk was.  The fact is, your dog can greatly benefit from having a strong core.  These benefits include:

  • Improved strength and athletic performance
  • Improved balance
  • Reduced injury risk
  • Improved muscle tone
  • Improved support of vital organs


Canine Core Exercise Basics

jackstretchboard_webUnlike people, dog’s really can’t do situps or crunches.  Actually, people shouldn’t much bother with these types of core exercises either for that matter.  Instead, your dog’s core workout is all about engaging their core for stability purposes, which, when held under tension for time or when held under physical duress (like when moving above or through obstacles) will build a functional strength that will markedly improve your dog’s physical abilities.  Think of your dog’s core like a pilates student thinks of their core: a set of inter related muscles that work together, like a corset, to provide stability, strength, and protection of the spine and internal organs.


maggiestretch_webWhen designing a core exercise program for your dog, focus on plank like moves that force core contraction with proper alignment throughout.  There are many different ways to achieve this starting with simple nose target stretches (described below) for reps and time and progressing to the use of balance cushions and peanut and stability balls.  We use balance cushions, mixing front and back leg focus and can really see our dogs engage their core to keep upright.  It is very important that you watch your dog’s alignment throughout the exercise movements.  In most cases, this means that their weight is equally balanced right and left, their back is straight, and their eyes are looking forward (to ensure proper cervical alignment).


Nose Stretch Description and Progressions

jackstretch2_webThe nose stretch core exercise is a simple to perform, yet challenging exercise for your dog.  You can make it more challenging by adding instability (which will require the use of a balance cushion or peanut).  We recommend starting with the beginner version until your dog can consistently hold the proper position for 10-15 seconds and for 4-5 sets.  Once this is accomplished, you can move on to the next progression.

Beginner: start out by having your dog stand with their back feet behind a solid object (like a 2 x 4 piece of wood).  Use a treat to have them stretch forward as far as possible without moving their back feet in front of the object. Hold this position for 10-15 seconds and release.  Perform 4-5 more times.

Intermediate: start out with your dog’s back feet on a balance cushion (which is low to the ground) and perform as above.  Make sure that your dog’s feet remain on the cushion.  You want them to stretch for the treat, but don’t move so far away that they are forced to step off the cushion.

Advanced:  perform this like the balance cushion version except have your dog step their back feet onto a stability peanut abutted against a wall or other stable surface.  Use the treat to have them stretch forward while keeping their feet on the peanut.  The peanut makes this a more dynamic exercise and your dog will be forced to adjust their body position to stay under control.  Again, watch for proper alignment and eye position.

SlimDoggy Jack and Steve are going to continue to test new moves and see who can develop a better 6-pack. Stay tuned for more great core exercise suggestions for your dog.
Special Prize Giveaway by Cloud Star

For this week and next, we will be randomly selecting one of the commenters from the FitDog Friday blog hosts: SlimDoggy, Peggy’s Pet Place and To Dog With Love. The selected commenter will receive a sample pack of dog treats courtesy of Cloud Star, makers of Dynamo Dog Functional Treats. Make sure to share your FitDog Friday thoughts and you may win a great prize for your fit dog!
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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  1. Interesting! I’ve never tried to have my Cairns do core work. I suppose I should start.
    Jill C. recently posted…WonkyMy Profile

  2. Nose stretch! Never heard of that. Must try!
    Ruckus the Eskie recently posted…September BarkBox Review (*Spoiler Alert!*)My Profile

    • Please do. We have many more core drills that we will share in future posts as well. These are so very beneficial for your dog.
      steve recently posted…Benefits of Core Exercises for your DogMy Profile

  3. Great stretches! We have a donut (for balancing, not eating!) that we like to use too!
    Your pals,
    Diane and Rocco
    Diane recently posted…Hiking with Dogs at Red Top MountainMy Profile

  4. I feel like I’ve been neglecting Mr. N’s core. He does have pretty good balance though so maybe he’s been working his core without my noticing.
    Tenacious Little Terrier recently posted…FitDog Friday #5 – Dog Food SagaMy Profile

    • Yes, most balance work is tremendous for the core. The key is working all four legs so that the muscles are worked evenly up and down the spine.
      steve recently posted…Benefits of Core Exercises for your DogMy Profile

  5. I’m thinking the nose stretch would be ideal for us hounds. Funny thing is, we both have serious noses for tracking and we both love to stretch. Mom says we look like live slinky toys when we first get up! We walk and stretch for a minute or so.
    emma recently posted…Two Problems, One Solution | GBGV | Fitdog FridayMy Profile

    • Sounds like it is worth trying Emma. The ‘hard’ part is getting the dog to reach without stepping forward. Jack and Maggie want the reward so much that they tend to step forward.
      steve recently posted…Benefits of Core Exercises for your DogMy Profile

  6. Hi Y’all!

    Oh dear…looks sort of like a stack that we do in the show ring…hmmm…

    I’m not entering the give away cause of my allergies. I never get the yummy “store boughten” treats…but I’m sure some lucky pup will be happy to say “yum, yum”…

    Y’all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog
    Hawk aka BrownDog recently posted…Follow Up with Diet and Fitness…My Profile

    • A strong core is essential in the show ring, I would suspect. Helps keep the dog’s body inline and streamlined.
      steve recently posted…Benefits of Core Exercises for your DogMy Profile

  7. Great info and pictures. Have a great weekend.
    joann stancer recently posted…Follow-Up FridayMy Profile

  8. Until joining this blog hop it was all about the cardio for Scooter & I but I do see the benefits of the core strength training. I’ve been making Scooter do limbo’s under fence posts and gates wherever we can find them. Haven’t tried any of the above exercises with him yet but I’m sure it will be next on my hit list. Enjoy your weekend……..
    Paws and Pedals (Kate & Scooter) recently posted…Holidays with Dogs – Why I’m tempted to give it a goMy Profile

    • Glad to hear that. We were the same way until we adopted SlimDoggy Jack and learned so much about a more balanced approach to his fitness. HAve a great weekend also.
      steve recently posted…Benefits of Core Exercises for your DogMy Profile

  9. Thank you! This has been a big concern of mine since Vlad is “leash WALK only.” “No running; no jumping, no stairs!” said the vet.

    I’ve been trying to learn about proper conditioning for him via T-touch so that once we CAN get off the leash, he’s not so likely to damage something like an ACL. The more I can learn about conditioning him before he’s allowed to be free in the fenced area, the safer he’ll be. Or at least I think so.

    • Glad to be some help. Incorporating core, balance,strength and other non-traditional exercises can really help condition the dog in a low inpact way. Further, it can help build a more balanced body which means a reduced injury risk. Check with your vet if you are concerned about any new activities! Good luck.
      steve recently posted…Benefits of Core Exercises for your DogMy Profile

  10. I’m glad to learn more of these core exercises and I like that they could be done indoors also, so we’ll have some things to work on this winter. I’ve got the balance cushion but we haven’t used it too much yet, so I hope we’ll be learning more things we can do with that too. This will be challenging with my treat crazy hounds, but we’ll have fun trying!
    Jan K recently posted…Up ‘n AutumnMy Profile

    • Great point about winter. We have so many more exercises to share with our readers, many of which can be done inside. Our goal is to minimize excuses for not keeping your dog fit and healthy. In fact, we will be writing a post on this very topic (“no excuses”) in the coming days.

      • I look forward to that, since excuses are my specialty! 🙂
        Jan K recently posted…Up ‘n AutumnMy Profile

  11. I think Frankie and Beryl are probably pretty fit and strong with the variety of exercise they get on their hoons around in the sand dunes and bushes after bunnies. I’m the one who needs to do more! It’s just as well they come back to me as I couldn’t keep up with them, lol!

    Having said that, it still wouldn’t hurt for us to do some of your exercises for more bonding and I’m sure they could get even stronger!! Look out bunnies!
    Greyhounds CAN Sit recently posted…Wordless Wednesday – Simple PleasuresMy Profile

  12. Very interesting exercises. I agree with Hawk, it looks like the stack we do in the show ring, although ideally the dogs would not stretch as far.
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…Monday Mischief–Too Much Cover and #ScoopThatPoopMy Profile

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