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Body Awareness and Balance: Essential Elements in Your Dog’s Fitness Routine

As pet owners, we often focus on our dog’s physical health through walks, playtime, and regular veterinary check-ups. However, there's an aspect of their well-being that might be overlooked: body awareness and balance. Just as in humans, improving these elements in dogs can have numerous benefits. In this post, we’ll delve into the importance of enhancing body awareness and balance for our canine companions, distinguish between the two concepts, explore activities that promote these skills, and outline three basic exercises you can incorporate into your dog's routine.

Border collie practicing body awareness and balance with paw targeting.
Border Collie Paw Targeting

Understanding the Benefits:

Body Awareness (Proprioception): This term refers to a dog's understanding of where their body is in space and how it moves. Enhanced proprioception leads to improved coordination, agility, and spatial orientation. It’s beneficial for all dogs to improve as it helps reduce the risk of injury, promotes joint health, and it’s particularly crucial for dogs engaged in activities like agility, where precise movements are essential.

Balance: Just like in humans, balance in dogs is the ability to maintain stability and keep the body upright. Better balance reduces the risk of falls and injuries, aids in navigating uneven terrain, and contributes to overall mobility and confidence.

Differentiating Between Body Awareness and Balance:

While closely related, body awareness and balance are distinct concepts. Body awareness primarily focuses on understanding one's body movements and position, while balance emphasises the ability to maintain stability during those movements. Think of body awareness as knowing where your limbs are, and balance as the ability to use that knowledge effectively to stay upright.

Sports and Activities that Require Body Awareness and Balance:

Canine sports and activities heavily rely on these skills for success! Here’s just a few sports that benefit.  

  1. Agility Training: Dogs must navigate obstacles with precision, requiring acute body awareness to maintain optimal speed and agility while balancing on narrow surfaces and making sharp turns.

  2. Canine Parkour: Also known as urban agility or dog parkour, this activity encourages dogs to interact with their environment creatively. From balancing on narrow ledges to jumping over obstacles, parkour enhances proprioception and balance while stimulating mental engagement.

  3. Heelwork To Music: Dancing with your dog isn't just a fun way to showcase choreographed routines—it also demands exceptional coordination and body awareness. From intricate footwork and fancy tricks to synchronised movements, freestyle routines highlight the bond between handler and canine partner while refining their physical abilities.

  4. Trick Training: Teaching your dog a variety of tricks not only entertains but also challenges their body awareness and balance. Whether it's balancing on hind legs, jumping over arms, spinning in circles, or walking backwards, mastering tricks requires dogs to understand and control their movements effectively.

  5. Dock Diving: This exhilarating sport involves dogs leaping off a dock into a pool of water to retrieve a toy or achieve distance. To execute a successful jump, dogs must accurately gauge their body position in mid-air, adjust their trajectory, and land safely, showcasing not only impressive power, but also body awareness and balance.

  6. Flyball: In this high-energy relay race, dogs sprint over a series of hurdles, trigger a box to release a tennis ball, and then return with the ball to their handler. Mastering the hurdles and getting a good turn on the box demands precise body awareness and balance.

  7. Skijoring: For adventurous duos, skijoring offers a thrilling way to explore wintry landscapes together. Dogs wearing a harness pull their handler on cross-country skis, requiring coordination and balance to maintain a steady pace while navigating varied terrain and obstacles.

3 Basic Exercises to Enhance Body Awareness and Balance

  1. Pole Scatter:

  • Target Area: Proprioception.

  • How To: Scatter poles randomly on the ground and place treats around them. Encourage your dog to find the treats without knocking over the poles, promoting careful movement and spatial awareness.

  • Correct Form: Focus on minimising pole contact over time.

  1. Cavaletti Walk:

  • Target Area: Range of motion (ROM) in limbs, core, proprioception, balance, coordination, strength, and flexibility.

  • How To: Set up cavaletti poles at the appropriate height and distance - height should not exceed that of your dogs hock, distance should be roughly the measurement from your dogs elbow to the floor for walk. Guide your dog to walk over them, maintaining a steady pace and proper form. Trot distance will differ.

  • Correct Form: Level topline, forward-facing, precise paw placement centrally between each pole, and no pole contact.

  1. Paw Targeting:

  • Target Area: Body awareness, coordination, balance and targeting skills.

  • How To: Teach your dog to touch paws to designated targets. Teach both front paws together, both back paws together and individual paws both front and back. 

  • Correct Form: Clear communication between you and your dog, with distinct cues for each body part.

Pointer targeting front paws on a fitbone to practice body awareness and balance for canine conditioning.
Pointer with paws on a fitbone form fitpaws

Incorporating these exercises into your dog’s routine can yield significant benefits, from enhanced agility and coordination to reduced injury risk. Remember to start slowly, gradually increasing difficulty as your dog progresses. With patience and consistency, you’ll soon notice improvements in your furry friend’s body awareness and balance, contributing to a happier, healthier life together.

For more exercises you can either sign up to the Canine Fitness App or book onto our body awareness and balance webinar! Contact us via for more details. 

By prioritising body awareness and balance, we can ensure that our canine companions not only enjoy their daily activities but also thrive physically and mentally for years to come.

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