Canine Fitness Equipment: Stability Balls
Keeping a dog active through regular exercise is one of the most important things a person can do to ensure that their dog is healthy and happy. Walking and running are two of the more common exercises that people use to keep their dog in shape. However, by no means are walking and running the only forms of effective exercise options available to pet parents. These days, there is a wide range of both equipment and technology available that can be used to enhance a dog’s exercise routine. Today, I am beginning a new series of posts that will discuss some of the more useful canine fitness equipment available to dog parents. The first piece of equipment I will discuss is the stability ball.
Stability Balls for Dogs
Stability balls are best known for their utility in human fitness programs, but they are equally as useful as part of a canine fitness program. Sometimes called Swiss balls or physio balls, these inflatable objects are used to add instability to an exercise. The more unstable the surface, the more the athlete most recruit their stabilizer muscles, and thus, the harder the exercise becomes. Even simple drills can become challenging and become more effective in building strength, balance, and muscle tone. The core muscles can become particularly activated when using stability balls.
Stability balls can offer a varying degree of instability. The two primary factors that influence instability on the ball are the level of inflation and the shape of the ball.
Stability Ball Inflation
The amount of air that is put into the ball will noticeably impact the level of instability that it adds to an exercise. This is due to the fact that a fully inflated ball will have less surface area touching the ground than will a less inflated ball. When starting a dog on a stability ball routine, it is wise to start out with a semi-inflated ball until the dog gets the hang of it. From there, you can add a bit more air each workout to progress the exercise.
Stability Ball Shape
The shape of the ball will also impact the level of instability. The shape of the ball will not only dictate the surface area that touches the ground, it will also determine in which direction the ball will be unstable. For example, the popular round stability ball is very unstable because it can roll in any direction. Compare this to the peanut shaped ball, which is longer and thinner, and can only roll side to side. The K9Fitbone is another shape option and is obviously appropriate for the canine athlete.
Stability Ball Exercises for Dogs
Almost any exercise that can be done on the ground can also be done on the ball. Some of my favorites include:
Front Leg Balance: the dog puts its front paws on the ball center and is forced to micro-adjust to keep from falling off the ball. Besides adding air to increase inflation, a simple progression is to gently perturb the ball to increase the challenge.
Hind Leg Balance: the dog’s rear legs are placed on the ball (the front legs are grounded) and is challenged to keep from falling off the ball. Progress by adding air or perturbing the ball.
Full body Balance: the dog is placed on the ball so that all of their paws are on the ball and is challenged to keep from falling. This requires a ball large enough so that the dog can actually get all four paws on and still be in a normal, athletic stance. Progress by adding air or perturbing the ball.
Single Leg Balance: once the dog has mastered anyone of the above, the progression is to encourage the dog to lift one of their paws (in a high five motion) so that their weight is being supported by one limb only.