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Exercise training for osteoarthritis in dogs – these 3 active exercises promote joint mobility and strengthen the muscles

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common joint diseases in dogs. The joints that bear most of the body’s weight are often affected. These include elbow, shoulder, knee and hip. In principle, however, all joints can be affected by osteoarthritis. Even the little toe joints. In the course of their lives, almost every dog develops osteoarthritis – even if it often goes unnoticed for a long time. Exercise training for osteoarthritis in dogs

The most common causes of osteoarthritis in dogs

  • Wear and tear as a result of natural aging
  • Overweight
  • Misload and overload
  • Inactivity and misalignment of joints

Is sparing the solution? Exercise training for osteoarthritis in dogs

Complete sparing is not the solution. The most important thing is to maintain mobility. Otherwise, the arthrosis will continue to progress. Your dog continues to lose muscle. And the less muscle he has, the more the joints have to compensate. However, the load must be adjusted to your dog’s disease state. It is better to take several short walks a day than two extensive walks.

This is how you support your arthritic dog with active movement exercises

Through specific exercises from movement therapy, you can actively support your dog’s mobility, muscle maintenance and freedom from pain. The dog thus copes better with his disease. Normal and healthy movement patterns are stored by the brain through regular, slow execution. Exercise training for osteoarthritis in dogs

The movement exercises presented here focus on slow and precise execution as well as ease of use for both dog and owner. Nevertheless, even exercises that seem simple have a very great training effect.

General tips for training

Please always pay attention to your dog’s daily form. Like us humans, our dogs are not equally capable every day. Adjust the training accordingly. The joy of training is clearly in the foreground.

Give your dog a break from training every 2-3 days to allow the muscles to “grow”. On these days, you should either refrain from training altogether, or significantly reduce the workload. If you notice that your dog is uncomfortable with an exercise and repeatedly refuses it, please take his signs seriously. I recommend you get to the bottom of what is causing this and take him to your veterinarian or physical therapist.

You should also keep these points in mind when training

Make sure your dog is standing on a non-slip surface. Furthermore, the emphasis is on performing the exercises slowly and precisely. In order to train a healthy sequence of movements, it is important that the exercises are performed as slowly as possible. This is the only way to interrupt the movement patterns automated by the brain, which run at a certain basic speed without the active participation of the brain.

Be patient with your dog and build up the exercises slowly. Your dog should get the chance to think along with you and to consciously perceive and develop his movements.

3 active exercises for more joint mobility and stronger muscles in osteoarthritis Exercise training for osteoarthritis in dogs.

Mikado – Cavaletti Training


Cavaletti training Mikado trains the joint mobility and musculature of all four runs. By means of slow, deliberate movements, a healthy sequence of movements, balance and coordination of the entire dog’s body are promoted.

When not

For stiffened joints


4-7 obstacles like branches, poles, broomsticks

Here’s how

The Mikado variant, is a variation of the classic Cavaletti training. Basically, Cavaletti training offers many different variations to train with your dog.

For the Mikado variation, take 4-7 obstacles such as cavaletti poles, broomsticks or branches and arrange them like a Mikado game. The bars are therefore at different distances and heights and in a relatively confined space. The task now is for your dog to slowly and deliberately climb over the poles paw by paw. The most important thing here is that your dog moves slowly and deliberately.

If this variant is too difficult for your dog, then I recommend the following variant:

You sit down on the floor with your legs spread. Your dog should sit next to you. This allows him to calm down and concentrate.
Guide it slowly, step by step over your legs. In order for him to understand what you want from him, it is useful in the beginning if you run your hand over your legs. So he follows your hand and climbs over your legs. Once on the other side, you can let him dismount again and reward him. Now it’s back over your legs again. The slower your dog walks, the better it is, because that’s how healthy movement patterns are stored in the dog’s brain. When your dog understands what it is about, you can also combine walking over your legs with a word signal. You should then reward him each time he arrives on the other side. So he is not focused on the food, but fully on the movement. Exercise training for osteoarthritis in dogs

Lift paws


The exercise is an effective muscle workout without the need for active joint movement. Therefore, it is called an isometric exercise (muscle strengthening without active movement of the joint). In addition, you train your dog’s body awareness, coordination and balance.

When not

No restriction

Here’s how

Your dog is in the starting position Stand. You first squat in front of or next to him. Now grab a front leg (above the paw) and lift it for 3-5 seconds. Put the paw down, grab the other front leg and lift the leg slightly as well and hold the position.

Now crouch behind your standing dog. Lift one hind leg – also above the paw – and bend the barrel slightly, just as you do when you dry your dog’s paw. Hold the paw again for the specified duration.

Even if the exercise looks simple, the effect and effort are high, especially if your dog has a weak point in the musculoskeletal system.
As you lift the barrel, you strengthen the muscles of the other three barrels by shifting your weight and your dog must compensate for the shift in body center of gravity.

Stand place transfer


The standing-placing transfer is a very effective exercise to train the muscles of all four legs and the back. In addition, you train joint mobility and your dog has to balance himself. His body tension and body awareness are strengthened. A perfect full-body workout, in other words.

When not

Instability or pain of spine or joints, stiffened joints

Here’s how

Your dog is in the standing position. For the correct execution of the exercise it helps many dogs if they stand on a spatial boundary such as a mat or similar. Give your dog the signal to go from stand to down. If he does not know a signal yet, you can take a treat at the beginning and bring it down in front of his nose. Gradually you can combine this with a word signal and/or a sight signal. When your dog is in the square, he should lie straight and not slide with his bottom on the side.

From the sit, you go back to the stand, without your dog sitting down first. If your dog knows a signal for this, you can use this. Alternatively, you can briskly pass a treat up from his nose.

Your dog should stay on the spot with his four paws as much as possible during the exercise, without going forward. This way the training effect is the greatest. If you stand quite close to your dog, you will support this. Especially at the beginning, this may not succeed immediately. Give him some time to work on his body tension and musculature accordingly. The way is the goal.

I hope you and your dog enjoy the active movement exercises presented here to promote joint mobility and musculature in osteoarthritis! If you are looking for more exercises for your dog and would like to train with him on a permanent basis, I recommend my online courses for dog owners on exercise and fitness training for dogs.

All the love, your Tina

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