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 exercise should only be done on the recommendation of your rehabilitation specialist or surgeon.)
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.
Prone to Half Sit
This exercise will strenghten abdominal muscles, particularly the obliques. It is important that the pet use the abdominal muscles and not the neck. Placing your hand on the dog just behind the curve of the rib will help to activate the abdominal muscles as the initiation phase of this exercise. DO NOT do this exercise unless your rehabilitation specialist or surgeon recommends it and demonstrates proper technique.
This is essentially a squat movement. With dogs recovering from surgery it is useful to strengthen the hamstring and quadricep muscles. We find that having the dog back-up and sit between that owner/handlers legs on a step is useful. The handler can control the position of the legs as the dog sits and support the pelvis as the dog stands back up.
Sit, give paw
This exercise is a good tool to strengthen shoulder extensor muscle. It also requires body control and strength on the supporting forelimb. This exercise should be done on both front legs, not just the affected leg.
Stand, give paw
This is a more advanced form of shoulder exercise. It requires strength, balance and shoulder extensor strength. Do several repetitions of this on both forelimbs. Have the dog reach out and low toward your hand or toy.
The cookie stretch is a useful basic flexibility tool. We ask the dog to gently look in all directions with a neutral neck position. This should only be done if instructed to do so by your veterinarian.
This is a more challenging strengthening exercise for the rear legs and back. It requires balance and core strength and the ability to support the body in a hip and spine extended position. We will incorporate this activity into a plan for dogs who do agility or who are recovering from a iliopsoas injury. Both forward and back movements are useful. When beginning this we start with the dog’s spine at about 45 degrees and progress to a more “vertical” stance.