Core, Proprioception and Balance Exercises
Here are some of the early exercises that we utilize with our patients:
This activity requires the dog to shift it’s weight and maintain balance requiring strength and coordination. It is important to make slow purposeful movements with the toy or treat to have the dog’s movements be measured and smooth
When your dog is standing with all four feet under them, in a “square” stance with a flat back, begin lifting the front left limb and move around your dog lifting each leg. This requires the dog to shift his weight to the other three limbs.
Physioroll Supported Rolls
We utilize physiorolls to support neurologic patients and to mimic proper weight-bearing and to allow safe repetitions of walking movements. We will create support devices as necessary for different size dogs.
Simply have your dog walk backwards. This helps with balance and proprioceptive movement.
Foam/Mattress Stand (weight shifting)
Altering the ground surface provides a challenge to the dog’s walking and proprioceptive ability. The activity causes the dog to “think” and negotiate with all four limbs during movements. It also improves balance and coordination. Basic standing and shifting can progress to walking.
The wobble board is a device that actively destabilizes the ground under all or part of the dog. We normally place the “healthy” part of the dog on the board and require the affected legs to participate more in maintaining balance and position. This is harder than it looks.
Having the dog place their forelimbs on a stair or elevated platform provides opportunity for balance work with extra weight shifted to the rear limbs and with the abdominal muscles and hips in an extended position. We may have the dog eat in this position or just do weight shifting.
Stepper Walking Patterns
Steppers are minor elevated platforms that require some dexterity to maneuver through. They build confidence and strength and they help to maintain interest during repetitious exercises. These can be as low as necessary but usually 4-6 inches high is a good start. The obstacles must have good footing and be on a level surface. Of course the dog is under leash control throughout the exercise.
Standing on a physioroll or ball is very difficult for a dog to do. It is like standing on a rounded trampoline! They must use core muscles to maintain their balance. Advanced dogs can do activities while they stand on the ball.