Exercise is an important part of our dogs daily routine and provides them with both physical and mental stimulation, but exercise doesn’t just have to be a run around the park. Physiotherapy is a great way of increasing muscular strength and can be of benefit to all dogs, not only those recovering from injury or surgery. Core strengthening exercises are fun and dogs of all ages can benefit, from very young puppies to senior dogs.
In the dog core muscles are those muscles of the abdomen, back and some limb muscles and they are responsible for correct and balanced posture in standing, sitting and during movement. Having good core strength helps prevent against soft tissue strains and injuries as well as improving muscle tone and making our dogs physically strong and ready to go!
Increased tension through the spinal muscles is a very common occurrence in dogs recovering from injury or surgery and is due, in many cases, to compensatory gait changes i.e. limping, which alters the dogs weight distribution abnormally. Having a strong core helps to protect the spinal muscles and limits spinal pain associated with lameness.
The exercises that are used in core strengthening also have positive effects on balance and proprioception and so are really useful in dogs suffering neurological conditions such as intervertebral disc disease and degenerative myelopathy. Likewise puppies benefit from increasing muscular strength whilst learning about balance, limb position and co-ordination (we’ve all seen the ‘clumsy’ puppy who is always falling over!). Exercises are very low impact so not to put unnecessary stresses on developing joints, which is especially important for puppies and skeletally immature dogs.
As dogs get older they can begin to lose some of that balance and co-ordination, and so core exercises are great for older, unsteady dogs – even dogs suffering from osteoarthritis. Exercises are always tailored specifically for your dogs own ability and condition so no dog is ever too old to begin a therapeutic exercise program.
Working dogs and those who participate in agility activities can obviously benefit from increased core strength. For working dogs (from assistance dogs to police dogs) core strength is essential for staying active and injury free in order to carry out their job to the best of their ability, where as for agility dogs it may mean increased performance and reducing the risk of injury on the course.
Core exercises don’t have to be time consuming, little and often is a good rule, and they can be performed in your own home or garden.
So, which exercises are core strengthening exercises?
If I have seen your dog for physiotherapy you will no doubt recognise a few of these, but core strengthening exercises can range from simply just standing for a short amount of time, sit to stand exercises , wobble cushion/balance pad work, weight shifting, baited stretches….. the list goes on. In all of the exercises there are variations which can be made to make them either more or less difficult to suit each dogs needs. The important thing is that you seek proper advice before starting an exercise program and ensure the exercises are set at the right level for your dog.
If you think your dog would benefit from some core strengthening or would like further details then please use the ‘contact me’ section of the website to get in touch.