Canine Fitness Equipment: Balance Discs and Boards
As I discussed last time, adding some level of instability to a canine exercise can make it more challenging while also requiring the recruitment of stabilizer muscles to control the body. Balance discs and balance (wobble) boards are another excellent choice when it comes to canine fitness equipment.
Balance Discs for Dogs
Balance discs are low to the ground objects that are often inflated with air. They can come in different shapes and sizes including small and flat round discs, large flat round discs, shaped like a bone, or even shaped like a square seat cushion. These discs make for an unstable surface, and will help the dog improve their proprioception (balance) while simultaneously working the core and other stabilizer muscles.
Like with stability balls, increasing the amount of air in the disc will usually make the surface more unstable. Larger discs are more suitable for multi-leg balance drills, while smaller discs, at least for larger dogs, can be used mostly for 1 or 2 paw drills.
Balance Boards for Dogs
Balance boards, also known as wobble or rocker boards, are also a great tool to work a dog’s proprioception and stabilizer muscles. Balance boards come in a few different varieties with the primary difference being the range that the board can move and the height they are from the floor. Starter boards that are easier to control will typically only move side to side or front to back. More advanced boards will have a ball type base and thus, will be able to move in any direction.
The height of the board can also determine how hard it is to control. Those with higher bases will have a larger range of motion and thus, will challenge the dog more than those boards with lower bases.
Canine Exercises Using Balance Discs and Boards
There are an almost limitless variety of exercises that a dog can perform on a balance device. A few of my favorites include:
Front Paw Balance– place a dog’s front paws centered on the disc while standing. Ask them to hold the position. Increase intensity be adding air to the disc or choosing a more advanced balance board.
Rear Paw Balance– place a dog’s rear paws centered on the disc while standing. Ask them to hold the position. Increase intensity be adding air to the disc or choosing a more advanced balance board.
Elevated Balance- same as either of the above, but place the paws that are not on the disc/board on an elevated surface (e.g. a chair or box).
Once the dog gets the hang of these drills, you can further challenge them by gently perturbing their torso which will force them to refocus and engage their core and stabilizers.