Physical Therapy Exercises for Dogs: Dr. Sam's Favorites
We all know that exercise is essential for maintaining good health for us as humans, but what about our dogs? You guessed it...exercise is just as vital for dogs! Exercise not only helps them stay in shape but also plays a crucial role in preventing various health issues, injury, and illness. Completing just a few exercises for dogs on a daily basis can help keep their body strong and well-rounded so they can live the best quality of life possible.
In this blog, Dr. Sam, your Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapy expert, spills the beans on her favorite physical therapy exercises for dogs. She tells you why they are important, how to perform them correctly, and things to look out for!
1. Walking - The Fundamental Exercise
Dr. Sam's exercise regimen begins with something as simple as walking. Walking is a low-impact activity that can be enjoyed by dogs of all fitness levels. It's an excellent exercise to start with if you're new to fitness or just getting back into it. Start with a 5-10 minute walk to "get your feet wet" and allow bonding time between you and your dog while you're both enjoying the day. Walks are important because they help to improve or maintain general strength as well as improve cardiovascular health, help control weight, and allow bonding time with your pup. Plus, it's a great way to get some fresh air!
Look out for limping, skipping, and/or hopping. These are signs of pain. If you see this, consult your veterinarian or local Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist.
2. Three-Legged Stance
The Three-Legged Stance exercise is one of Dr. Sam's favorites due to the multitude of applications. For instance, (1) Strength is addressed because rather than putting weight through all four legs, the remaining weight distribution is on the three legs touching the ground, challenging strength. This, in turn, addresses (2) Balance.
Make sure your pup is not putting weight through the free leg that is in the air. If they are, try the exercise again or reposition the treat. If they are still putting weight through the leg, this exercised is, likely, too hard. Stop the exercise in this case.
3. Box Stretch
This exercise is a favorite because it addresses many goals: Strength, flexibility, and balance. It should be noted that the limbs that are on the ground are the ones being worked the most.
Strength: The legs that are on the ground are being strengthened because weight is shifting over the downward legs. Consequently, weight is shifting away from the elevated legs, taking pressure off the front limbs if there are any sore spots.
Flexibility: The legs on the ground are being stretched.
Balance: Moving from one position to the other challenges balance. In addition, once the correct position has been achieved, holding and maintaining the position challenges balance, as well.
Make sure that front paws are under the shoulders and rear paws are directly under the hips for good form. The shorter the box or step is, the easier it will be. Conversely, the taller the box, the hard the exercise will be.
3. Sit to Stand
The Sit to Stand exercise is important because it helps to strengthen both rear limbs.
For human exercise enthusiasts, the Sit to Stand exercise is the canine equivalent of a human squat.
Be sure to look for any deviations your dog may have. The stifles (knees) should be bent in the sit position and with weight equally distributed over both legs. This correct start position allows your dog to be as successful as possible with the activity, and targets the right muscle groups.
In summary, Dr. Sam's Favorite Exercises are a testament to the importance of a well-rounded fitness routine that combines cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility exercises. Whether you and your pup are beginners looking to kickstart a healthy lifestyle or a seasoned fitness enthusiast seeking new ideas, these exercises can be a valuable addition to your regimen. Remember that the key to success in fitness is consistency and listening to your body. Start slowly, progress at you and your pup's own pace, and consult with your veterinarian or certified canine rehabilitation therapist. By following Dr. Sam's lead, your pup can enjoy a healthier, more active life.
Disclaimer: As always, Dr. Sam’s Favorite Exercises are for instructional and educational purposes only. Please consult with your veterinarian or rehab therapist to determine if the exercise is appropriate for your pet.