Walking Backwards

I love working with dogs and I have learned a lot from their owners.  Many of the dogs are sporting champions, which keeps me on my toes when designing a home exercise program for them AND their owners.  For example, there’s the owner of the obedience champion who when I prescribed having her begin walking with her dog on the opposite side (the right) it was like asking her to write a essay with her non-dominant hand.  Then, there’s the agility dog owner who when asked if her dog knows how to walk backwards said “sure” and proceeded to show me how her dog could do a “hand stand” against a wall by placing its back feet on the wall.  Now don’t get me wrong.  That is quite a cool trick, but it’s not the same as walking backwards.  Oh, and by the way.  The answer was no that dog could not walk backwards more than three steps.  Hmmm.

Below is a little “cheat sheet” of exercises that every canine rehab therapist wants your dog to know how to perform before Fido walks into his or her clinic.  It is much easier for all involved if both owner and dog are already familiar with these exercises so focus can be on the rehab and not on the training.

  1. Sitting high fives.
  2. Standing high fives.
  3. Walking backwards.
  4. Digging in a controlled fashion (ex. digging for a treat under a blanket).
  5. Forward WALKING through cavaletti poles or a ladder.
  6. Crawling.
  7. Sit to stand (and reverse).
  8. CONTROLLED leash walking (on your left AND on your right).
  9. Rolling over. SLOWLY!!! Both ways.
  10. Sit to down (and reverse).
  11. Trotting on leash.
  12. Figure 8’s through your legs.

How many of these exercises does your dog already know how to do?  Think of this list as a winter project.  Once your dog knows how to do these exercises you can use this list as a form of monthly health “check-up”.

Please notice that begging, handstands, or anything with a therapy ball/disc/peanut is not on my list.

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  • disqus_e2G30EQspF

    Hi Robin, thanks for the winter project. So, why haven’t you listed ball exercises and begging? I’m not sure of your thinking about handstands, but I don’t think they are good for the spine. Comments?

  • rpelletier

    Hi, Christine,
    These exercises are basic (no equipment) necessary type exercises. Well, except the cavaletti poles, but you can use a ladder instead. Per the questions about balls…. I’ve treated A LOT of injuries related to ball exercises. If not careful, ball exercises can strain the back and shoulders and over strengthen the iliopsoas muscle. Just my opinion :). For core type of exercises I use discs, couch pillows, stairs, and cinder blocks.

    For my strengthening exercises I try to replicate dog movement patterns, so I haven’t found begging to be one that they use in a natural fashion. Begging causes a lot of stress on the stifles, SI joints, and low back. I know other therapist like using it, but as an advanced level exercise only. Again, just my opinion.

    Thanks for reading my blog!!!

  • C W

    Great list of tricks to teach – I’m writing them down so I don’t forget to teach them to my puppy!