It all starts with core strength. Just like humans, dogs need to have a strong core. Does your dog look good but not great? Is your dog at the right weight, but just doesn't look fit? Take a good look at your dog as he moves around the ring or around the yard. Do you see a shift or roll on his back? If you notice any of these things, your dog needs to strengthen his core.
Here are three easy exercises you can do in just a few minuets, without special equipment, to improve your dogs core strength. In addition to improved appearance and performance, a strong core will reduce the risk of injury, improve gait and will literally carry your dog in their senior years. Here are three quick and easy exercises you can do with your dog on a daily basis that will improve core strength. No special equipment is needed and you can run your dog through these in just a few minutes time. I take my three dogs through them while I drink my coffee each morning.
- Sit to Stand reps. This is an easy one, since most dogs already know how to sit. Ask your dog to Sit, then Stand, Sit then Stand. I have worked my dogs up to 3 sets of 10 repetitions each. The pace is about 1 second between Sit and Stand, then a little break before I start the next set. Make sure your dog is moving to the standing position using their rear, not their front. If needed, back your dog's rear into a corner or wall to ensure proper form. This is harder than you think for your dog. Start slowly with just a few repetitions and build up over a period of a few weeks. This is the equivalent of you going to the gym for the first time in months and lifting a lot of weights. The next day is not a good one...your dog will experience the same thing, so go slowly and make this fun.
- Sit to Down reps. Otherwise known as "puppy push-ups". Put your dog in a Sit, then ask for a Down, then back up into a Sit. Work your dog up to 3 sets of 10 with about 1 second between the Sit and the Down. Remember, go slow and gradually increase the number of repetitions that you do.
- Sit, sit pretty, stand and sit. This is the hardest but probably the most beneficial of the exercises. Put your dog in a Sit, the raise up to a what I call a "Sit Pretty" (or the begging dog pose!), then all the way up to standing on two hind legs, then back down to a sit. Start with your dog in a Sit and just try to move him up to a sit pretty position, the classic standing on haunches with front paws at his chest. For some dogs this is a very natural position that they perform nightly right around dinner time! But for a lot of dogs this can be very challenging. Use treats and help your dog up into a sit pretty. Support him with one hand on his collar and your forearm under his front paws. Just work and practice up to this position until your dog has mastered it. A few times each morning for about a week or so and your dog will be comfortable going to this point. Next add the all the way up on hind legs command and back down. Once your dog has mastered the positions you can gradually add more repetitions.
TIPS Use a clicker when you first start if your dog is not solid on the commands. Marking the correct position and behavior makes it very clear to your dog what you are asking him to do. If your dog isn't solid on the commands Sit, Stand, Down or Sit Pretty (some people use "up") use a treat at their nose to lure them into the correct position along with a clicker. For Sit, hold the treat over your dog's nose and move backwards, ultimately, their rear will hit the floor - it is at that exact moment that you click, then offer your reward. I use both hand signals and the voice commands with my dogs. If you are just starting, sometimes just the hand signal and lure with the click is best.
Once they understand the behavior, then you can add naming the behavior. Ultimately, they will understand both and using hand signals or voice commands will be interchangeable. Once they have mastered the commands try one day just using hand signals, the next voice commands...you will be amazed how smart your dog is and how willing they are to work!! What is your dog's favorite reward? For some dogs it is treats, for others toys or tugging. Mix it up and find out what your dog likes! Feed a portion of your dogs morning meal as training "treats" or use healthy, nutritious treats when practicing these exercises. This becomes a fun game for your dog and you aren't adding extra calories or junk food. Keep it fun! My dogs LOVE this one on one time and they LOVE to work! A version of this article was previously posted on Dog Mamma's