Strengthening Exercises

Depending on the injury and the patient’s condition we will often recommend strengthening exercises that can be done with the patient standing independently or assisted by a sling, physioroll etc.

The following exercises are listed from easiest to the most challenging.  These should only be done on the recommendation of your rehabilitation specialist or surgeon.

Single Leg Lifts


Single Leg Lift

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.

Weight Shifting

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

Pattern Walk

Walking in small circles and figure eights varies the stride patterns and distances in obvious ways. Dogs with subtle injury, both orthopedic and neurologic will be challenged by patterns and changes in direction.  Initially this must be performed very slowly!

Diagonal Leg Lifts

Diagonal Leg Lifts

When your dog is standing with all four feet under them, lift the right front leg and left rear leg together.  Alternate to lift the other two legs.  This activity works on your dog’s core and requires balance and strength.  In human physical training this would be an advanced “plank” position.  Ask your surgeon before you begin this exercise.

Straight cavaletti

Cavalettis are wooden poles arranged in a straight line on the ground. Do not use any object that will roll if stepped on for the safety of you and your dog. This activity encourages greater active range of motion, requires full weight bearing on all limbs and challenges proprioception, balance and coordination. This helps to rebuild the”autopilot” walk.

Place the cavalettis in a row and slowly walk your dog through them. Start with four to six in a row and build up to more. Ask your rehabilitation specialist or your surgeon for proper height and spacing recommendations.

Circle cavaletti

Cavalettis are wooden poles arranged in a circle pattern on the ground. Do not use any object that will roll if stepped on for the safety of you and your dog. This activity encourages greater active range of motion, requires full weight bearing on all limbs and challenges proprioception, balance and coordination.

Place four of the cavalettis in a circle pattern and slowly walk your dog through them in both directions. This will require all of your dog’s legs to walk in a different path which optimizes independent limb use.

Pick-up sticks cavaletti

Cavalettis are wooden poles arranged in a random pattern on the ground. Do not use any object that will roll if stepped on for the safety of you and your dog. This activity encourages greater active range of motion, requires full weight bearing on all limbs and challenges proprioception, balance and coordination.

Single curbs

This activity helps improve balance and coordination and straightens the leg muscles.

Sit to stand

This activity is very similar to a squat; both the sitting and rising are equally important. We normally have the dog walk along a wall then sit square then stand, walk and repeat. The activity helps strengthen gluteal and hip muscles. It also improves active range of motion. This should only be done if advised by your surgeon.

Inclines/declines

Begin slowly walking up and down gradual inclines that provide good footing for your dog. As your dog’s muscles strengthen and range of motion improves, steeper inclines can be introduced. This activity is low impact and increases strength of the leg promoting extension of the knee and hip.

Stairs

Slowly walk the dog up and down stairs that have good footing. This activity requires strength and balance. It will help improve coordination and power in the rear legs. For very small or short legged dogs, this activity requires extreme physical effort and would therefore not be part of early therapy.