Exercising Outdoors with Dogs: Hind Legs
I recently wrote about the benefits of exercising outdoors with your dog. Fortunately, we were recently able to enjoy those many benefits in the mountain forests of Big Bear Lake, CA. We used the forest trails and landscape as the ‘gymnasium’ to make sure that SlimDoggy Jack got some good workouts in while on vacation. Our focus was on the hind legs which need extra attention as Jack, like many senior dogs, tends to lose strength in his hind legs as he ages.
Using the Outdoors to work a Dog’s Hind Legs
There were two obvious ways we could utilize the outdoor mountain space to work Jack’s hind legs. First, we used the hills and elevation changes in the terrain. Running or walking up hill will work a dog’s hind legs more than their front legs, because their weight transfers backward to their rear as they move up an incline. There were lots of rolling hills and sometimes steep terrains that we experienced during our runs and hikes. Although the hills make it harder, the benefits are worth the extra efforts. I think Jack would even agree. Hills anywhere are an effective exercise for your dog, but attacking them out in the woods provides the added benefit of softer turf (dirt instead of cement), which makes the exercise truly low impact.
The second way we used the landscape to target Jack’s hind legs was to find objects that could be used as platforms. We saw many logs and rocks, and were able to get Jack to bring his front legs up on these objects, thus loading up his hind legs. Like we do in our home, once Jack is in this position, we gently push on his core, forcing him to engage his core and legs to stay upright and steady. This is a really simple exercise drill that can be used to strengthen a dog’s hind legs. The fact that we could do so in a beautiful forest was an added benefit.
Although I couldn’t ask Jack how he felt, I noticed that I felt more energized during my runs in the forest. The novelty of new terrain, the abundance of fresh oxygen (from all of the vegetation), and the feeling of being close to nature all combined to keep me energized and strong during my workouts. I would bet that Jack had the same experience as well.
Take advantage of the nicer weather when you can and try some forest or park runs or other forms of exercise with your dogs. It’s a great way to mix things up and take advantage of the “gym” that Mother Nature has provided us all.