Weekly Rehab Instructions:
Just like short leash walking, slow controlled leash walking up and down hills is by far one of your best and easiest exercises. Why? By going up hill, you are shifting more weight on to the hind legs and are therefore increasing stress and work load. Also, by going down hill SLOWLY, you are adding increased stress on the hind legs. You have to remember that since you are now a personal trainer, you have to think about how you are going to make things more difficult. One of the best ways to do this is by incorporating some hills into your walking routine.
Now here is the thing about hills:
- Start with a very easy gradient or incline and work up
- Walking up just one time is pointless. Just like the Sit-to-Stand exercise, you need repetition
- To start, use a very short leash and try walking both up and down a hill five times
- Gauge how your dog does with five repetitions and then gradually increase
- Remember you can also make it more difficult by increasing both the size and slope of the hill
- It is best to keep a log book of this, so you can increase each time
Understanding Balance & Proprioception
Balance and proprioception can be a difficult concept for some. We all understand what balance is, so I will not explain this.
Proprioception, on the other hand, is defined as the awareness of where the various parts of the body are located in relation to each other. Most of the time this is a subconscious awareness, but sometimes after surgery we need to relearn this skill/awareness. Advanced exercises, such as using a balance board, can be a very effective tool in improving this fine motor skill.
What are Cavaletti Poles?
This is yet another great exercise for increasing strength, as well as improving overall balance and proprioception.
At TopDog, we use thin PVC pipes as our Cavaletti poles which are suspended between traffic cones that are pre-drilled with holes. A broom stick handle can work great, as well.The cones have holes at various heights so that we can raise the poles over time to make this exercise more challenging. Ideally, you want to have at least 4-6 of these poles.
Start with just laying them down in a row, spaced about two feet apart. At this point, we are not going to raise them off of the ground. You are going to want to walk your dog through, using a short leash and going back and forth. This helps your dog become aware of where they are placing their feet. Once they are comfortable and familiar with this, you are going to start to raise the poles up off the ground. The reason for this is so your dog has to physically work at stepping over the poles. Think of the exercise that you see football players do, when they have to run through tires, high stepping to get through them. This concept is very similar.
Over time you can make this more difficult by continuing to increase the height they have to step over, but you can also bring the poles in closer together to make the exercise more difficult. You can also do more repetitions to make it more difficult, as well.