Fitness training in dogs is always inevitably associated with balance pads and balance boards in all colors and sizes. But why actually?! I thought long and hard about writing this article and sharing my thoughts. But my toenails always curl up when I see dogs in videos struggling painstakingly for posture and having everything in training – but no fun and no training effect. But the owner is insanely proud of how the quadruped holds itself there on the wobbly construct of 5 different rubber pads in colorful variety. Yes, that is an exaggeration, but the (sad) reality is often not so far removed from it.
This has nothing to do with fitness training or balance training
The improper use of balance pads, balance boards and wobble boards is in fact guaranteed not to build muscle and also not to give you a good body feeling. You may think I am a colorful balance pads opponent now. And in certain respects, I am. As a dog physiologist, I can tell you that all of these training tools do more harm than good if used improperly.
But I don’t want to rant any further. Many dog owners want to do something good for their dog and support his health. And that’s a very good thing at first. While researching, you stumble across the nice looking fitness gear for the dog – and strike.
But how to use it now? Fitness training for dogs
First of all, not at all! Put them in the corner. After all, your dog doesn’t need them to start fitness or exercise training.
You wonder why?
To answer that question for you, let’s imagine how we humans handle it when we’re new to a sport. It’s simple: when you start a sport, you approach the workout in a very structured way. You start with the basics. You work out the basics of the sport and create a certain (sport-related) “basic fitness”. The movements and possible grips must be in place and you must move with confidence before the next steps are taken. This ensures that you become familiar with the sport and also successively better. It also reduces your risk of injury. If you don’t do this and are part of the overambitious faction that immediately jumps in at a higher level, you are certainly well acquainted with painful muscle soreness the next day and frustration from lack of training success.
And as a beginner in fitness and exercise training, why should your dog immediately do his exercises on a flexible surface?
Right, that makes no sense. Also in the movement training with the dog one begins – if one approaches it technically correctly – first of all on the completely normal underground. And with simple basic exercises. Any exercise you do with your dog, he should be able to perform confidently and safely on a stable surface. The movements should be correct so that the movement sequences are also stored correctly in the brain. Fitness training for dogs
Only then – and really only then – can you begin to perform the same exercises on a flexible surface such as a balance pad.
That’s why you should train with your dog on flexible surfaces only later on
The flexible substrate has it all. The dog is no longer concerned only with the correct execution of the movement, but must also balance itself. The demand on the musculature is also significantly higher. He has to use a lot more muscle power. That demands a lot from him physically.
This is what happens when balance pads & co. are used improperly.
Now if you were to go with this knowledge and train exercises that your dog is not familiar with directly on a flexible surface, it is clear that the following will happen:
- Movements are no longer performed correctly, consciously and cleanly
- Your dog is unsteady in the movements Fitness training in dog
- His muscles tense – and indeed the whole body – because he fights doggedly for “posture”. Active muscle training is NOT possible at this point! Or have you ever achieved an effective muscle building workout with tight muscles?
- The opposite happens: your dog’s muscles tense. Tension results in pain and relieving postures.
- In sum, these things have a negative effect on his body image
I’m sure all of that is not one of the things you want to accomplish. Therefore, you should leave your own ambition aside and not be blinded by colorful rubber pads.
This is what responsible fitness and exercise training for dogs looks like
Responsible fitness and exercise training in dogs should always be built up sensibly and according to plan. To do this, you go from the simple to the complex – in terms of demand and in the movement itself. Also, think about what your training goal is for your dog. When choosing exercises, it is also useful to have a professional help you.
Your dog should have a good command of basic movements, have some basic fitness, and body awareness should be worked on as well. At the beginning, this requires neither complex movements and elaborate tricks, nor special equipment.
Effective exercises don’t have to look spectacular!
The effect of an exercise is not determined by how complex and exciting it looks. Even very simple exercises have a great and lasting training effect. As an example, I like to cite my beloved sit-to-stand transfer. Almost every dog knows the signal. That is already a good prerequisite. Your dog can then concentrate very well on the movement itself. When (simply) sitting down and standing up, you train the mobility of your dog’s hind legs – from the hips to the knees to the hocks. But in addition, the muscles of the hind legs and lower back.
And that with a simple standing seat transfer. Without equipment.
The crux of the matter, however, is that for many dogs of all ages and fitness levels, it doesn’t come naturally to him to sit correctly. If you want to learn more about correct sitting in your dog, my article on correct sitting and how to train it is perfect for you,
Conclusion: Fitness training for dogs – with or without balance pads & Co.
So you see where we need to start with fitness training in dogs: with simple movements that your dog learns to perform correctly. Then you can incorporate more complex movement sequences into the training and successively incorporate flexible surfaces according to the fitness status.
I’m certainly no opponent of balance cushions, pads & co. and use them myself in training all the time. But only when the dog is physically able to do it and certain basic movements and a basic fitness are given. I am concerned that they be incorporated into training in a meaningful way so that the benefits to the dog’s fitness are real. This is how you ensure that you are providing real health benefits to your four-legged friend with exercise training in dogs. Fitness training for dogs
All the love, your Tina