Saturday, April 25, 2015

Equipment for a Starter Canine Fitness Gym for a Toy Dog

Samurai doing a sample workout in his Papillon gym

A friend asked me for suggestions for purchasing starter workout equipment for her dogs. Here is my response. It includes links to the equipment discussed and the reasons I like it.

Here's the text of the letter:

As promised, here are some suggestions for building a starter canine fitness "gym". For all of the inflated equipment, start out with item not completely inflated. Inflate more to make balance harder, deflate to make it easier). 

If you want to choose one item to start with, I think at this point, I would choose a K9 Fitbone. Second, 2 balance discs. Third, the PawPods. Fourth, the Get on the Ball Video. Five, the stretching video. There is a lot of stuff here you can make or have someone make for you a lot cheaper than buying. 

It's fun to have a selection of things so you can be less repetitious and let the dogs "play" on the obstacles, similar to the way Taylor was in his little video. I have to be very careful not to overdo with him. This would be awesome for the puppies! 

Supporting strength, balance and proprioception in an older Papillon

Except for cardio, they only need a few minutes, 2-3 times a week with this. The movements and weight shifts don't have to be dramatic. With Samurai, I'm really making the movements a lot more subtle to get him to shift weight to his weaker knee without having him start to compensate (by moving his leg out or roaching his back). 

Try to keep a flat back and good posture through all of the exercises. Fewer correct exercises is better than more out of position. Watch for shaking or compensating. This means the dog is tired. Keep it the workout short and sweet and quit while they're still having fun.

  • 1 or 2 small balance discs (these are really versatile)
  • 40 cm peanut (peanut should be longer than the dog standing square. Dog should not stand hunched up on the peanut. This size should work for most Papillons. If you have a larger dog, purchase for the size of the biggest dog). The eggs are harder than peanuts. Don't use a yoga ball. The dog can't stand square on it.
  • K9 Fitbone - 1 should be good for a Papillon. 2 for larger breeds. These are relatively new, but really nice. Especially since the dog can easily board on its own, which is harder than with the peanut. It's also more stable and if they lose their balance or an oops happens, the fall won't be as scary.
  • FitPaw Pods - These took Samurai a little bit to master, but Taylor loves them. They're great for teaching balance and some people use them to teach stacking. In our class, one point we learned is how difficult it is for an animal or person to stand still. Having the dog stand in balance on the pods or doing weight shifts is a really great exercise. You can also substitute tuna cans. You can also use human versions of these found in sporting goods stores.
  • Cavaletti - I'm sending a link to the product, which I purchased, but frankly, as is, they're difficult to work with for a dog of Papillon height. Basically, the dog is trotted over with one paw falling into each opening between the cavaletti. You space them the length between the withers and point of the hip. Basic height is below hock height. So...for Papillons, really low. So, the heights on these cavaletti are too high! So I end up taping bars to a yoga mat. Some people get little baskets at the dollar store that you can pop the bars into. Or custom make bar holders to height. Send over at a trot. Great for conformation to develop balanced muscling. Start with 6 cavelletti and work up to 12. Once the dog can do the trotting at the initial distance you can extend the width between the bars sometimes to work on an extended trot.
  • Wobble boards - You can make these a LOT cheaper. Great for puppies to play on to get them ready for working on the teeter.
  • Rocker board - You can also make these a lot cheaper. Just wrap a board with yoga mat material. These are great for doing incline work and teaching lateral leg raises (important for strengthening the medial hip flexors).


Get on the Ball - This is what I started with. I'm studying with the presenter right now. The moves here can be done on any of the equipment above (except cavaletti)
The Healthy Way to Stretch Your Dog - This is a wonderful video. It's really a good balance for the strength building exercises.


Should also include walking, trotting, hiking, swimming several times a week.
Cavalletti counts as cardio
DogTread - These are becoming popular and people are combining them with the balance obstacles above for advanced workouts. You can use a human treadmill for a dog the size of a Papillon but for larger dogs, the length of the bed won't be long enough for them to trot extended.

Hope this helps! Have fun with your dogs. :-)

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