Dog Exercises for the Hind Legs

by Victoria Lee Blackstone
    A little dance with your dog improves hind leg strength.

    A little dance with your dog improves hind leg strength.

    Noel Hendrickson/Photodisc/Getty Images

    Just as with humans, regular exercise is essential for your dogs, for general health as well as to reduce risk of injury. Regular exercises help improve a dog’s strength and muscle tone in the hind legs specifically, too. While some exercises require your assistance, many exercises can be adapted into your dog’s regular daily routine.

    When Your Pooch Needs Help

    At times, your dog may not be as active as he used to be. He may be recovering from an injury or, due to aging, may not be as eager to exercise. In these cases, range of motion exercises help to get the muscles moving and increase blood flow. Before starting any range of motion exercises, talk to your veterinarian about what exercises are best for your dog and his condition. Range of motion exercises include hip rotations, knee rotations, hock rotations and bicycles. For bicycles, your dog stands while you support and rotate one back limb at a time.

    Getting Those Muscles Warm

    Warm-up and stretching exercises are essential before any strenuous activity and help to get the blood flowing to the muscles. Regular stretching helps to reduce the risk of muscle or joint injury. For rear limb stretches, have your dog stand next to you. Reach over to extend one rear leg straight back and hold for three seconds. Repeat with the opposite leg. Follow these stretches with a slow-paced walk or jog to increase the heart rate gradually before any strenuous activity. Follow all activity with additional stretching and a slow walk to cool the body down and reduce injury risk. Warm-ups and cool-downs only require three to five minutes.

    When Walking Isn’t So Easy

    A simple walk around the neighborhood is a good form of exercise for your dog at any time. A change in environment can take that regular walk and turn it into an exercise designed to focus on hind limb strength. Instead of walking on a flat, smooth surface, take your dog for a walk on a sandy beach. The softer surface area increases limb awareness and builds strength. Another option is walking in water, in either a lake or a shallow pool. For dogs that are unable to support their body weight, walking in water lets them move their muscles while reducing the amount of weight they must support. Walking backwards is another alternative that focuses on the hind legs. Using a treat as incentive, stand in front of your dog and walk toward him, making him walk backward.

    Take to the Dance Floor

    Simple games you may already play with your dog target the hind limbs. When you play a game of tug with your pooch, keep the tugging object at head level. This requires your dog to engage his hind legs. When playing tug, do not jerk the toy, as this can cause injury. For a fun exercise, put on some music and lead your dog out to the dance floor. Pick up his front legs and practice some simple dance steps.

    Photo Credits

    • Noel Hendrickson/Photodisc/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Victoria Lee Blackstone is a horticulturist who propagates heirloom and native plants for her nursery. She has authored research-based scientific/technical papers, plant care sheets and magazine and newspaper articles. Blackstone studied botany and microbiology at Clemson University and is a former University of Georgia Extension Master Gardener Coordinator.

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