If you are already doing fitness exercises, or are interested in starting them with your dog, you need to understand the dog’s neutral position, weight distribution, and what is happening during specific actions, activities or sports performances - how and why something as simple as the direction your dog is looking in can affect your dog’s body, AND how to use this to your advantage when doing fitness!
I find people often struggle to find, for example, a knee on their dog, or measure how high the dog is at the withers vs. at the shoulders etc., so why not explain it all in one place!Let’s look at the picture, and try to find the most important points of the dog’s body. Go ahead and try and feel them on your dog!
2 - shoulder joint
3 - elbow joint
4 - wrist / carpus
5 - pelvis: 5a - tuber sacrale, 5b - tuber ischii)
6 - hip joint
7 - stifle / knee joint with patella
8 - hock / tarsus
9 - cervical vertebraes
10 - thoracic vertebraes with rib cage
11 - lumbar vertebraes
Dogs carry 60% of their weight on their front end, and 40% on their rear end while standing. The front is therefore built to support the weight, while rear end works more as “an engine”, pushing forward when the dog starts to move.
Now, let’s move on to a trotting dog. Can you tell the difference in weight distribution between the two pictures of the same dog?
Front Feet up on an object” is a perfect foundation exercise, and it engages the dog's rear end and core.
Now, look at the pictures below, and think about whether the left and right photos are having the same effect on the dog. Are they both working the same rear end and core muscles?
In both cases, the dog has front feet up, so there can't be any difference, right? WRONG. Look at the head position in relation to the spine. In the photo on the left the dog has her head above the spine, which shifts weight to the rear end – engaging hind feet musculature to work more.
Just the opposite happens in the photo on the right, where the reward is lower, and she almost all her weight to the front end, which makes this exercise totally different from the previous one!
So – if you want to work on the rear end in this position, you need to keep the head higher up!
The position we want our dog in, and the body part to which they shift their weight, is highly dependent on our reward (or target focus/touch) placement.
Remember this the next time you enjoy your fitness training session with your dog!
Author: Jana Gams, DVM, CCRP
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