Core Strength Training for Dogs: Balancing
Due to its role in protecting the internal organs and spine, as well as it being the conduit to movement and power transfer, a dog’s core is really one of the most important areas to target with regular exercise. Keeping with that theme, today I will introduce another canine core exercise that can be performed virtually anywhere. This week’s exercise is balancing.
Anytime a dog needs to balance on a surface that is not as stable or one that is lacking ample surface area, the dog will be forced to engage stabilizer muscles that will hold the body’s position in space. These stabilizers, which include the core muscles, are forced to contract isometrically in response to the unstable stimulus. One of the easiest way to target a dog’s core stabilizers is to use wobble boards, balance cushions, or narrow surfaces as the base for an exercise.
Wobble boards are a great way to introduce a dog to instability and to build a base level of core strength. For the easiest starting point, use a rocker board, which will only rock side to side and then progress to a wobble board, which will move in any direction.
To use the board, place a dogs front or rear legs on the board and have them hold this position for 15-30 seconds. The dog will likely shift their weight as they rock back and forth to stabilize. If the board tends to rock to one side more than the other, check and see if the dog is not centered properly on the board and adjust.
The balance cushions, like the K9 Fit Bone, provide an inflatable and unstable surface for the dog. Use the cushion much like the wobble board, alternating between the front and rear legs. As the dog becomes more conditioned, progress the exercise by slightly deflating the cushion, which will increase instability. Adding a second cushion so that both the front and hind legs are on an unstable surface is the next progression. Smaller dogs can progress to all four limbs on the same cushion.
Walking or balancing on narrow surfaces is another way to add instability and force the dog to engage their stabilizers. You can use wood beams or fallen trees as the surface. To start, use a surface that is low to the ground, so the dog will feel confident on the beam. Have the dog get on the beam (or tree) facing in one direction, with all four paws on the beam. Slowly have them move forward across the beam. The dog will be forced to activate their stabilizers in order to keep their body centered on the beam, which is why this drill is so effective.