Agile cow dog Maggie and James the Poodle are living proof that three legged dogs can do agility!
But did you know many agility training exercises can be very beneficial for helping tripawds build core muscle strength and develop better balance?
Dog agility weave poles in particular can be used to help new canine amputees develop proprioception.
proprioception (n.) The unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body itself. Of importance for three legged dogs, the awareness of where their feet are in relation to their new body.
California Animal Rehab expert Dr. Jessica Waldman emphasizes the importance of working with new tripawds to develop core body strength and help them adapt to their new gait and sense of balance. “Walking only develops stamina, it is not a strengthening exercise,” she says.
Core strengthening and balance exercises help your tripawd:
- Improve reaction and control of their body,
- Increase trunk and core strength,
- Stabilize weak areas,
- Improve balance and awareness of the body’s position in space,
- And increase range of motion of joints and lengthening of muscles
Nose to tail stretches and weave pole work are great exercises that prove to be both beneficial and fun. Once your pup has recovered from surgery, have her stand and use a favorite treat to make her stretch from side to side toward her tail. Reps of five stretches in each direction are adequate at first. She may loose her balance at first, but keep this up to strengthen her core muscles and she will soon learn to adjust her stance.
To further improve her balance, set up a weave pole course to help develop stability on three legs. Have your dog slowly hop through the poles, turning left then right and reward her with praise and treats. Be sure watch your dog for signs of fatigue, and don’t overdo it. A few times through the course and back should suffice at first. If she sits down, it’s time to stop and do some good dog stretches.
Like Maggie shows us in this exercise video, you can set up cones and have your dog do figure-eights to work the same core muscle groups. You can also build a set of poles using PVC pipe in a straight line, spaced about a foot apart, to create a weave course. Or, use easy to set-up poles such as these from PetSafe Dog Agility Training Equipment. To help your dog learn how to weave to and fro, consider using Weave Pole Guides to direct her through the course. Before long she’ll be running through poles like expert Maggie!