Core Strength Training for Dogs: The Touch Drill
One of the easiest ways to work a dog’s core is to force them to stabilize their body against external stimuli, which means forces or factors ‘outside’ of the dog’s control. One very effective method to do this is to use gentle touches to perturb the dog’s body while they are in various positions. I call this the touch drill, and this is an exercise that can be performed by dogs of all ages and of all levels of fitness or health.
The Canine Touch Drill Progression
No matter how fit the dog is, a version of the touch drill can be used to keep their core strong.
Have the dog sit and gently touch them up and down their torso, forcing them to have to contract their core stabilizers to keep their body in a fixed position. Make sure to work equally on both sides of the body, as the angle of the touch force will directly influence which muscles are recruited for stabilization.
There are many ways to make the touch drill more challenging as the dog gains core strength.
Standing position. Have the dog stand and maintain their positions while you perturb their torso.
Inclined/declined position. Have the dog stand with front or back feet elevated on a block or other raised surface and perform the touch drill.
Cushion or wobble. Have the dog stand with front or back legs on an unstable surface like a balance cushion or a wobble board while performing the exercise.
Special Considerations for Injured Dogs
The touch drill is also a perfect drill to use for injured or rehabilitating dogs. Even If your dog has trouble sitting or standing, you can still perform the exercise in most cases. If the dog is able to lie in a “sphynx” position (down on the floor with the body erect but no weight on the limbs), you can use this as the starting position. Like in the other variations, gently touch the dog’s body from different angles which will force them to contract their stabilizer muscles to hold their position. As the dog recovers from their injury, follow the progressions above and indicated by your vet.
Using gentle body perturbations is a very effective method to work a dog’s core muscles. It is one of the few exercises that can be used on injured, beginner, or even advanced level canine athletes and it is a very safe, low impact exercise.
Next week I will continue with more core exercises for dogs.