Have you ever done triceps pushups? Those challenging pushups in which your elbows and arms stay glued close to the sides of your ribcage? They’re so tough! There is a dog version that you can teach your canine to engage his triceps and biceps!
Benefits of Pushups
Your dog likely spends much of his life in a fast-moving gear. Slow, deliberate and controlled movements that target specific muscle groups can benefit your dog. The triceps extend the elbow and flex the shoulder. Conversely, the biceps flex the elbow and extend the shoulder. Engage both of those by doing this pushup!
What are the prerequisites?
It is helpful to know the sustained nose touch hold and chin hold before progressing. Work up to a 10 second hold. Generalize the nose touch or chin hold so that if you move your hand slightly, your dog continues to keep his nose or chin, respectively, in contact with your hand. Continue to advance until you can move your hand gently several inches and your dog retains the nose or chin contact.
You may also want your dog familiar with front limb targeting so that you can elevate his forelimbs on another surface. If his limbs are elevated, he may be less likely to pitter patter them out of position while learning the pushup. In addition, using unstable surfaces later will add difficulty, so consider learning hind limb targeting, too!
How do I start the pushup?
Have your dog standing with his forelimbs targeted on a perpendicular step bench and his hind limbs on the floor. Your dog’s shoulders are above his wrists. You should face your dog in a standing or kneeling position. Cue your dog for a chin hold or a nose touch hold by stating your verbal cue and putting your hand with the proper hand signal in front of your dog’s face. This may be a closed fist for a nose touch hold and an open, upside palm for a chin hold. Move your hand down an inch slowly, praise your dog, and return slowly to the starting position. Say “yes” and treat your dog. That’s one repetition – one pushup!
Continue to progress until you not only get the head and chest moving downwards, but you also see your dog’s elbows bending into a triceps pushup! Over time, the triceps pushup will get deeper.
Should you add a verbal cue to designate “pushup”? Generally, no. Without the nose or chin hold, you cannot as easily control the slow speed or intensity (depth) of the pushup. Many of the benefits result from the slow tempo and proper form!
Ensure his elbows point backwards towards his hindlimbs – elbows facing outwards indicate fatigue and your dog is done working that particular exercise or done with that exercise session. Also be sure that you see the elbows bending – you do not want your dog to simply lower his neck up and down as that would work different muscles.
How many should I complete per training session?
Approximately three times per week, strive for 2-5 repetitions per 2-3 sets. Over time, continue to work on your dog being able to bend his elbows more deeply. Be sure to warm-up and cool down your hound before and after exercise.
How do I add difficulty?
If you want to add challenges, consider using unstable surfaces. For example, use a soft cushion or foam balance pad under his forelimbs. If you have canine fitness equipment, consider slowly progressing to more unstable equipment and even adding equipment under his hindlimbs, too! An advanced pushup would have the forelimbs on the K9FITbone and hindlimbs on a small, inflatable disc.
Design a Fitness Program
To find classes near you or to learn more about how to do beneficial calisthenic choreography for your dog, find a Certified Canine Fitness Trainer (CCFT). A CCFT can guide you in program design and in the proper number of repetitions and sets per exercise.
Besides being a blast, doing canine fitness helps keep your dog at an appropriate weight and physically fit. Doing fitness exercises with proper form can help prevent injuries and ensure your pup recuperates faster when he does get injured. Just as humans check with their doctors before engaging in new fitness routines, dog owners should check with their veterinarians before proceeding. If you ever see any changes in your dog’s health or notice any discomfort, stop the activity and contact your veterinarian.