Saturday, June 20, 2015

Core Body Strength for Dogs

Brisbane's physical therapy is going well. After several weeks of balancing on his FitPaws peanut for ten minutes every other day, he is definitely making progress. Core body strength is an important and often neglected part of physical fitness, so I'm glad we're finally getting on the balance bandwagon.

When we first started balance training, Brisbane was unable to stand up on the peanut. He would wobble hard unless I supported him, and preferred to sit on lay down instead. Being on the peanut gives him a nonstop parade of treats though, so he really loves being up there. After several weeks of diligent practice, two 5-minute sessions every other day, Briz can now stand up and remain stable for quite a while.

In this picture, you can see Brisbane's back leg sliding off the side of the ball. This is partly because the ball is a little slippery, but mostly because he lacks the core strength he needs to hold a proper sit. He has improved in this area as well, and can now sit on the ball or on a slick floor without his legs sliding out from under him.

Ru also thinks the FitPaws peanut is awesome. The peanuts come in different sizes, and it's important to have one that is big enough for the dog to stand on without compromising their posture. You can't really have a peanut that is too big though, so Ru can also balance on Brisbane's big yellow one. Ru can sit and stand nicely on it, so he is working on sitting pretty instead. He is getting much more stable when sitting up like that, and can hold the position for several seconds now instead of just bouncing up and then dropping his front feet back down immediately.

My first experience with quadruped core strength was actually with horses. My own horse lacked the right muscles for many years, so his movements tended to be big with minimal control. When a horse has the core body strength to support himself and a rider, his movements become more controlled and his steps become shorter. It turns out that dogs work the same way, and developing Brisbane's core muscles will help him support his chronically sore back.

I was rather surprised to find that people, though we walk on two legs, also engage the core muscles when we run properly. As part of our Couch-2-5K program,  I have been learning better running form. I found that I tend to look down and lean forward while. When I look toward the horizon and work on supporting myself with my core, I also take smaller and more controlled steps. This makes me move slower, but also conserves energy and makes running a lot easier and more enjoyable.

How are you and your dog getting your exercise this summer?

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