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Fitness on the Flat

Behavior and Training  •   Jasey Day  •   Sep 07, 2018

Fit Dogs: Fitness on the Flat (No Equipment Needed)

If you’ve been following the Fit Dogs blogs, you’ve learned why to practice fitness skills with your pooch. This blog is going to give you fun ideas to create combinations of skills during an exercise session with your dog! Doing groupings of fitness-related skills is a healthy way to mentally and physically work with your dog – especially when you’re traveling or stuck indoors due to poor weather. No special equipment is needed – just grab some treats (even kibble) and your hungry dog.


If you’re just jumping into the fun now or need a refresher, click on the links below to “Teach Your Dog:”  

  1. Stand, sit and puppy pushups 
  2. Front, rear and all paw targeting on objects 
  3. Sphinx down, play bow and nose touch (hold) 
  4. Chin touch, shake with all four paws, circles and army crawling
  5. Lateral stepping and backwards walking


See below for several examples of creating choreography. As you become more fluent, create your own combos! Start with very low sets (1-4) of a new exercise set (doing the sequence of multiple skills) as your dog builds stamina and gains strength. Keep training sessions short – 2-10 minutes – and/or pace your training session by using 10-60 pieces of kibble or other treats.


  1. Sphinx down to stand. Focus on your dog not moving any paws as he glides through sphinx down, stand, sphinx down, stand and so on for a couple more sets! Feeling fancy? Add in shaking with the paws individually whenever your dog stands. The naming convention for paws was numbers 1-4. Thus, stand, sphinx down, stand, 1, 2, 3, and 4 and then repeat again as stand, sphinx down, stand, 2, 1, 4 and 3. If you don’t have shake with the back paws yet, skip the back paws in the combo until you have that skill!
  2. Puppy pushup to patty cake. Have your dog down, sit, shake 1 and 2, down, sit, shake 2 and 1.
  3. Bow with a low chin. Have your dog perform his bow skill and, while he is in the bow, ask him to put his chin on the floor with a pout or a chin hold with your hand down on the floor.
  4. Bow, stand, sit and stand. This one gets tiring fast so only repeat the sequence a few times.
  5. Stand with nose touching around the clock. Have your dog stand and either nose touch (or chin hold) all different angles: 3 o’clock, noon, 6 o’clock, 9 o’clock, etc. At first, your “clock” may need to only be an inch away from the dog’s center of the clock - his natural nose position when he is standing – to ensure your dog does not break the stand position. Over time, your clock may get wider as your dog realizes he can move his head while standing; your dog will actually have to learn to shift his weight while he does this and it takes a lot of coordination to keep his feet glued (unmoving!) to the floor while he looks different directions!
  6. Diagonal shake balance challenge. Shake with opposite paws while holding those paws. Ask your dog to lift paw 1 (front right paw) and hold 1 gently in your hand. Then ask for 4 (left back paw) with your other hand and hold 4 simultaneously. Start with just a one second hold and build up to 3-5 seconds per diagonal holding (1 and 4, then 2 and 3).
  7. Hold a paw. If your dog cannot independently lift his paws up yet on command, you can have your dog in a stand and gently pick up individual paws for 1-5 seconds each. Your dog will gain strength and improve balance by doing this three-legged balance exercise!
  8. Lateral stepping with pushups. Do five feet of lateral stepping one way. Then do three puppy pushups. Do lateral stepping the other direction. Do another three puppy pushups.
  9. Circle games. Have your dog do 360-degree circles right and left on command while doing these combinations:
    1. Circle right. Down. Sit. Stand. Circle left. Down. Stand. Circle right. Sit. Down. Stand. Circle left.
    2. Circle left. Nose touch high (above the dog’s natural nose height). Circle right. Nose touch low. Circle right. Nose touch to the right of the dog’s nose. Circle left. Nose touch to the left of the dog’s nose.
    3. Circle right and then shake individually with all four paws. And then do the reverse!
    4. Do lateral stepping eight feet in one direction and then circle once each direction (right and left). Perform lateral stepping the reverse direction and circle once in each direction (left and right).


If you taught crawling or backing up, you could also do those skills in place of lateral walking above! Or just choose to perfect those skills outside of the sequencing drills.


Want more? This bonus exercise technically isn’t on the “flat.” Instead, it’s on the stairs! Leash your dog so that he must take controlled steps up and down the stairs with you. Do not allow your dog to trot, run or use momentum to fly up or down the stairs; instead, work on your dog taking very precise, controlled movements. Try going up a flight of stairs and back down 2-3 times in a row with your dog walking - not flinging. Carpeted stairs are easier on you and your dog’s joints than hard-surface stairs, such as concrete.


Before pursuing new exercise regimens with your dog, check with your veterinarian for any special guidance or any restrictions. If your dog seems physically tired or uncomfortable during a training session, stop the training session immediately and determine if you need to discuss your dog’s issues with your veterinarian.

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