Beyond the Playground: Canine Mobility Health – Kris Butler CCFT

Beyond the Playground: Canine Mobility Health – Kris Butler CCFT

Mobility: “the ability to (1) move in one’s environment with ease and (2) proficiently organize & accomplish acts of physical movement.”  (

The purpose of canine fitness training is to empower dogs to move – better – through effective exercise. Our strategy is to increase each of our dog’s “mobility health” to its maximum potential and, in the process, mitigate risks for injury.  Mobility health engages muscles, joints, and related connectors BEYOND ways in which dogs move through their typical days of play, work, or sports. 

“In truth, it matters less what we do in practice than how we do it and why we do it.”  ~ Donna Farhi

The key to effective exercise is not so much WHAT equipment a trainer uses as HOW the handler moves the dog through purposefully selected exercises (the WHY). However, people like to imagine their dogs having fun and so interesting equipment often serves initially as a draw and then as a catalyst for healthy change.

“In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” ~Unknown

Yes, there is a difference! Below are some examples of canine exercise theory & equipment. These dogs are not posing on equipment; they are in motion! Missing from still photos are ways to show our dogs’ participation in carefully selected exercises – our “mobility health plans” in practice. There is a video link at bottom of this post.*

Soft unstable equipment engages spinal, shoulder, core, and hip stabilizing muscles – all necessary to safely support the body during braking (deceleration), turns and landings.

Two pieces of unstable equipment, one under front legs and one under rear legs, engage supportive muscles of the core and teach dogs awareness and management of fore/rear limbs independently of each other.

Stable equipment engages primary muscles – for speed, power, and lift.

When one piece of equipment is stable and the other unstable, load is increased on muscles affected by stable equipment. Elevating one end (front/rear) or side (left/right) of the dog increases load on the other.

Abduction/adduction are not common canine movements outside of the rigors of sports.  Pivoting and sidestepping exercises on one or more pieces of equipment, as well as weight shifting on singular larger pieces of unstable equipment engage the core and abductor/adductor muscles of the limbs – to increase stability during movement.

Weighted vests provide exercise progression through increased intensity (load) when it is not practical to increase duration. As with all equipment, we are cautiously selective in our use of this tool.

“The secret of getting ahead is to get started.The secret of getting started is breaking your complex tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”  ~Mark Twain, among others

A primary reason people don’t offer fitness training to their dogs is because they don’t know how to get started. We can help with that! For the best “whys & hows” in canine fitness theory & practice, consider services offered by a Certified Canine Fitness Trainer (CCFT)  and/or your dog’s veterinary or chiropractic doctor.

Kris Butler CCFT currently offers private fitness skills coaching in collaboration with dogs’ veterinary or chiropractic doctors. She offers seminars/workshops to groups interested in fitness training for canine athletes or working dogs. Kris’s contact information is on her website.

*Rave On & Lincoln’s fitness videos can be viewed on American Dog Obedience Center’s Fitness Page