Thursday, January 23, 2014

6 Exercises For Both You and Your Dog!

Here in the midwest, winter can be a hard time for both humans and dogs to get the exercise they need. We have previously posted about exercises you can do to improve your dog’s fitness, but now we are taking it one step further. Here are six (ok, 12) exercises that are useful for both humans AND dogs. Keep both you and your dog in shape this winter so you can safely hit the woods running as SOON as the nice weather returns!


Squats are great!  Remember good squat form for people is to have your knees directly above your toes (and not going in front of them!), back straight and tall, and to be sure you move through the FULL range of motion - at least down until your thigh is parallel with the ground and back up to vertical!

For the dog, teach him to put his front feet on a short object. Ask for a sit and reinforce for keeping the feet on that object.  Ask or lure him into a stand, once again reinforcing for keeping front feet on the object. As the dog progresses increase the height of the object until the dog can do squats with his front feet on a box his elbow height. For an extra challenge use unstable objects like a balance disc.

Handstands require a tremendous amount of core strength, both for dog and human. For the human start in push-up position, feet against a wall. Move your hands inward and walk or slide your feet up the wall. Bring your feet up the wall as far as you can. As you progress, try to get your feet high enough up the wall so that your back is straight. Add duration in this position, but always remember to progress slowly!  Once you are comfortable backing into a handstand the next step is to learn how to kick up into a handstand (back to the wall instead of stomach!)

For the dog a handstand is a progression of backing up onto an object. Start small, and gradually teach the dog to back up onto higher and higher objects. Keep in mind that not all dogs are physically capable of doing a handstand, but backing onto a shoulder height box still requires quite a bit of core strength and muscle activation. You can also build strength in the position by having them slowly step forward off of a taller object and stop with front feet on the ground and back feet on the object.

Quadrupedal Movement (QM):
QM is moving with all four limbs on the ground. There are many different variations, the easiest of which is the equivalent of a dog trotting. Your hands and feet should move in diagonal pairs, keeping your legs directly under you and your back as level as possible. This exercise builds both strength and endurance and is much harder than it looks!  

Dogs do QM every day! Since we are moving how they move every day, now they are going to move how WE do every day. This exercise builds both core strength and balance for dogs and can easily be adjusted for skill level. Start by supporting your dog’s front feet either with a wall, your arm or a tall object. Gradually, he should be able to hold his front feet off the ground without assistance. As he improves ask for longer times, more back foot movement, or even squats.

QM Up Stairs:

A very difficult version of QM is to go feet first up a flight of stairs.  This exercise requires power, strength, and endurance. You should start with a short flight of long, low stairs and build up from there.

Even though dogs move on 4 legs every day, they will still get significant benefits from learning how to back up a flight of stairs. Start low, teach the dog to back up (see Progress to backing up on a low step, encouraging the dog to alternate which foot he places on the step first. When the dog is comfortable with one step progress to a staircase. Remember this is hard work! Start with only a few steps and progress to being able to do the whole staircase multiple times.


Traversing simply means moving in a lateral direction. One variation is for your hands to be on the ground, and feet on an object such as a wall (start low!). Move laterally, and make sure to go both directions.

Side Step: Find a low board or wall. Teach the dog to put his rear feet on the board. Either lure or shape sideways movement, start small and pay attention to the back feet.
Move sideways, in both directions. Repeat the same exercise with the front feet on the board instead of the back.

Pushups build upper body strength and core strength. If you are just starting pushups, start with your hands at waist height and feet on the ground. Remember to engage your core and keep your back straight. As you get stronger place your hands on lower objects until you can do push ups on the ground! Pushups can be made harder by doing them with your feet slightly elevated, or with your hands on gymnastics rings. You can experiment with many different variations. Things such as changing elevations, hand placement, and speed can dramatically change which muscles you target.

There are two variations of pushups for dogs. The first one is alternating between sits and downs. Start on the ground, and as they get stronger progress to doing them on a wobbly surface such as a “peanut” or balance pod.
Another variation is starting with rear feet on a elbow height box. Either lure your dog or have him nose target your hand. The goal is to get the dog to stretch and flex his shoulders as he reaches downward. This can also be made harder by replacing the box with something more wobbly. As he progresses you can ask for longer holds in the flexed shoulder position.

Remember, both you and your dog should ENJOY exercise so have fun and be creative, while always remembering to progress slowly and keep safety in mind! If you discover any other great exercises that both you and your dog can do be sure to comment.