Sports and Fitness: Back It Up

Simple exercises will strengthen your dog’s core and rear-leg muscles.

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Does your older dog have difficulty climbing stairs, jumping on your bed, standing up after a long nap or going outside to relieve itself? For most senior dogs, decreased mobility isn’t caused by arthritic pain – it’s caused by weakness that results when certain muscles aren’t used as much as they should be.

Puppies spend a lot of time chasing squirrels, wrestling with canine buddies, and following their people up and down the stairs. But as dogs age, they become more sedentary. Because dogs walk on four legs, they bear 60 to 65 percent of their weight on the front legs, which are exercised much more than the rear legs. For many senior dogs, the rear legs end up just following along behind the front legs like a train’s caboose.

Canine calisthenics
With just a few exercises, you can put your dog’s measly muscles back to work, transforming your dog from weak and uncoordinated to fit and lively.

The first thing to do is to get your dog’s core (abdominal and spinal) muscles working. Even though dogs don’t walk upright like people do, their core muscles are critical in coordinating movement of the front and rear legs, and in protecting the sensitive spinal cord from torque or excessive flexion.

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