We’ve all seen those older dogs and maybe we’ve owned one: the senior dog whose back end is severely atrophied. His leg, hip and back muscles are so weak that he has trouble getting up. Sadly, he can barely make it outside to relieve himself much less run around and play. Even though he is otherwise healthy, the vet starts talking about crossing the bridge that we all dread… But this is not fate.
If you put your dog’s front legs on a mat scale you will discover that he carries 60-80% of his body weight in his front legs. As your dog walks around in daily life the front part of his body gets a good workout by essentially pulling the dog’s weight around. The back legs just fall in line behind the front without getting much of a workout. Unless you intentionally exercise the back end the dog will experience atrophy as he ages and is less active.
You can teach your dog, young or old, one simple trick that builds rear end muscles that can add years to your dog’s mobility and life. With some patience and practice any dog can learn this trick.
Begging Can Save Your Dog’s Life
The trick is called Begging. No, we aren’t going to teach your dog to stare you down and cover your floor with drool as you eat a hamburger. The begging stance is a great exercise for the dog’s core muscles in his back and abdomen. It also builds hip and leg strength. Think of it as a combination of crunches and squats for your dog.
You may want to have a helper on hand when you teach your dog this trick, or put your dog in a sit with his back to the couch. This exercise is a learned skill requiring balance and strength and it may take a few days for him to pick it up. You want to make sure that he doesn’t tumble over backwards and be afraid to try again.
Grab some tempting treats and ask your dog to sit.
- Wave the treats just above the dog’s head to lure the dog to sit up into a begging stance so that he can grab the food.
- The dog’s rear end should stay flat on the ground as he raises his shoulders and front legs and straightens his back.
- Let him eat the food and lower back down into a sit.
The goal is for the dog t be able to hold the “beg” position for 5 seconds. You can do this exercise every day and start with 5 repetitions, adding as the dog gets stronger. If your dog is already a senior it may takes a few weeks for him to get the hang of it but keep trying! Even if he never can hold the beg stance he is still building strength just by trying.
After a few weeks you will notice that your dog is stronger and more skilled and the trick is easy for him. Now it is time to bump up the challenge! Once again, you will want to recruit a helper who can make sure that your dog doesn’t fall over backwards. Ask your dog to sit and then lure him up into the beg stance. From there, encourage the dog to push up into standing and balancing on his hind legs. Again the goal is for him to hold for 5 seconds and then back down into a “beg” for 5 repetitions.
Tip: Wait until your dog is really hungry to teach him this trick so that he will be motivated to beg for the food.
Any dog can learn to beg. Once your dog learns the trick you can practice with him as you make dinner, watch tv or do your own crunches and squats. Just 5 minutes a day of begging can add years to your dog’s life.
Love live your dog!