Strength Training for Dogs: Hind Leg

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As discussed in my last post, the hind legs are a particularly vulnerable area for many dogs, especially as they age. As with humans, the notion of “use it or lose it” certainly applies. The key to preserving (or building) a dog’s hind leg strength is to focus the exercises so that they target these muscles. Each of the exercises below will target the hind legs and are fun ways to exercise with your dog.


Tug – This is an old standby that can easily be converted into a hind leg exercise. The key is to tug from a high angle so that the dog is forced to rely more on their back legs than their front legs. Hold the tug toy at a height that allows the dog’s body to form a straight, but upward sloping line (as viewed from the top). Their body should be properly aligned. Be careful not to hold the tug toy too high or else the dog might angle their head to achieve the extra height. This could put undue stress on the dog’s cervical area, which is poor alignment and could lead to neck injuries.
tug exercise

Pull – Pulling is a great way to build a dog’s hind leg strength. Use a pull harness and either add a weighted resistance (e.g. a sled or cart) or just provide the resistance yourself by holding them gently as they walk or run forward. Do NOT attach the lead to the dog’s neck, which could lead to a neck injury.


Front Leg Elevations – Anytime a dog has their front legs higher than their rear legs, the back legs are forced to bear the majority of the load. Almost any exercise where the front legs are elevated, either in air or on a platform or raised object, will really hit those hind leg muscles. We like to do a drill called the elevated touch drill, which works both the hind legs and the core. Have the dog place their front legs on the elevated surface and hold that position. Once they are set, gently perturb up and down their body so that they are forced to contract their core while holding still.


For an even more advanced exercise, have the dog raise one of their rear legs while in this elevated position. Loading the hind legs unilaterally is a fantastic way to target the hind leg muscles and it can improve core strength and balance as well. One way to do this is to tickle the dog near their rear flank or underbelly, which can cause them to lift their leg (to scratch). This modification is one of SlimDoggy Jack’s favorite exercises!

We have some special plans coming up in the month of October so be sure you visit us next week at FitDog Friday. Our co-hosts To Dog With Love and My GBGV Life will be announcing a special month-long fitness event with lots of great challenges and tips to get your pups (and you!) in shape for the upcoming holiday season. Get ready for cardio, strength training and conditioning — we’ll have a new challenge each week in October. We will also have some great prize packages from our Fall Fitness Challenge sponsor. All the details will be announced next Friday… so get ready to have some fall fitness fun!



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FitDog Friday Please enjoy our FitDog Friday Blog Hop brought to you by SlimDoggy and our co-hosts To Dog with Love and My GBGV Life.   Join the Hop or just enjoy the links below - lots of fun fitness tips and advice!  


  1. Great post! I make my dogs do squats to keep their back legs strong! Basically, sit pretty into a (hind leg) stand and then back down to sit or sit pretty. 😀
    Lauren Miller (ZoePhee) recently posted…PetSafe Train ‘N Praise ReviewMy Profile

  2. Hi Y’all!

    My Human says that bringing me here to the mountains a couple of times a year so I can romp up and down the steep slopes does lots to build my back end and shoulder muscles.

    Y’all come on by,
    Hawk aka BrownDog
    Hawk aka BrownDog recently posted…Run Free! Run Fast!My Profile

  3. Missy & Buzz both practice their “sit-pretty” and “paws up” (usually on the back of the couch for a tasty little something) skills on a daily basis!
    Barbara Rivers recently posted…Mouth-Watering AND Healthy Dog Food Made Possible With #StellaandChewys Super Beef Meal MixersMy Profile

  4. Great Post. Keeping your dog active is very imp, such routine is a great way to groom one’s dog.
    michael recently posted…10 Dog Accounts On Twitter That Will Make You Go ‘Aww’My Profile

  5. I will try it to play tug your way…maybe that’s easier for me too, when I have to hold the rope toy :o)
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog BLAST FROM THE PAST & FFHTMy Profile

  6. I remember your posts on using balance balls and other equipment to help strengthen different dog muscles. I was in the middle of moving and also really, really cheap. So I just decided to buy Honey a sailboat instead. 🙂

    The thing that most worried me about this boat is what’s turning out to be the best strengthener. When we lift her into the cockpit, we put her front legs onto the top step. She then kicks off first one rear leg and then the other until she’s on the top step and ready to jump over the companionway into the cockpit.

    We’re definitely seeing a lot more strength as well as a lot more agility.
    Pamela recently posted…Are Those Dominance Trainers Right?My Profile

  7. Wilhelm, Brychwyn and Huxley are constantly complimented by all of their health practitioners on how toned their hind legs are. We don’t specifically work on it so it must be all the “sit pretty,” tug and hill climbing we do!

    I hope you are joining us for Walk Your Dog Week again this year!

  8. Love these strength training exercises!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…Back To School With Bowzer Box!My Profile

  9. There are a lot of things Katie did right by accident earlier in life and one was being a tug maniac. She struggles now with back leg/end strength, but we do think all the work she did in her younger years helped keep her going as well as she is now.
    Emma recently posted…8 Tips For A Fit Senior Dog {Plus 3 Giveaways}My Profile

  10. ohhhh fitness challenges can’t wait to hear. Have a great week I’ll see ya when I get back.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Pool Time~FitDog FridayMy Profile

  11. Tug is one of our favorite games!
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…#TruLoveIs PetSmart and Wellness TruFoodMy Profile

  12. My dogs play tug, too!
    Earl Lover recently posted…Have Fun Keep Fit Series #3My Profile

  13. Tug is one of Cocoa’s favorite things. She is constantly trying to get us to play it with her. She uses most of her toys as tug toys even if that is not their intended purpose :).
    Julie recently posted…LovedMy Profile

  14. I love to play tug, sometimes too much. But I make sure to listen when my humans tell me enough is enough. 🙂 Have a wonderful weekend!
    Spencer the Goldendoodle recently posted…Lake FunMy Profile

  15. I love these exercise tips and will begin Shasta’s hind leg strength training today! I wish he liked tug of war a little more…. 😉
    Denise Gruzensky recently posted…Canine Arthritis Treatment-GlycoFlex ChallengeMy Profile

  16. This is a cool post! That’s something I wouldn’t have thought about. I must look back to the post you did on the balance balls…
    Rama’s Mama recently posted…Happy First Day Of Fall, Ya’ll!My Profile

  17. Mr. N likes to walk on his hind legs. He can usually manage a couple of feet that way.

  18. Those are excellent tips!
    2 Brown Dawgs recently posted…Downed TreeMy Profile

  19. Kilo loves tug. We do lots of exercises (many inspired by you) to build up his core and hind muscles. As a pug with big head/chest/shoulders and relatively long back, he is vulnerable. He was very unbalanced when we got him but is much stronger now (he can dance around on his hind legs and jump like a basketball player – not that we encourage too much jumping). Have a great weekend. S
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  20. This post is right on time. Jax is so lazy with his hind legs. He still has that puppy awkwardness, and could use some of these techniques incorporated into his daily routine of play and exercise. Sometimes he waits for me to lift his hind legs onto the bed #lazy Thanks for the tips.
    Groovy Goldendoodles recently posted…PET PARENT #EXTRAORDINAIREMy Profile

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