This physical rehabilitation exercise is used to actively assist your pet with foot placement, muscle strengthening, proprioception, increase joint range of motion, increase stride length, and coordination.
- Set up one or more rails (or objects) of varying or similar height (depending on the dog's ability and height) in a straight line (Figure 1).
- Walk your dog slowly with a leash over the rails with the goal of picking up each foot and placing it down on the other side of the rail without jumping, hitting their foot, or knocking down the rail (Figure 2).
- Do this several times in both directions. If your pet becomes tired (not lifting the legs as well, slowing down, dragging toes), stop the exercise or decrease the difficulty. You can slowly increase the number of rails or times through the rails each exercise session.
- Height of the rails (or objects) is based on the size of your pet and the degree of flexion desired.
- The goal is to get your pet to step over each rail individually. Jumping to get over the rails is undesirable; if this happens, lower the rail height.
- Start with the rails the height of the pet's ankles unless indicated otherwise.
- Spacing between rails should be equal to or slightly longer than one of the animal's body length.
- Stand your dog squarely and measure the distance between the front and back feet.
- Your pet should be walked on a short leash to avoid stepping on rails, prevent jumping over rails, and maintain better control during the exercise.
- For small breed dogs you can sit with your legs extended on the floor and have the dogs step over your legs back and forth.
- A treat can be used to encourage activity.
- Adding difficulty (consult with your veterinarian about this)
- Add resistance band to strengthen extensor (straighten) muscles or flexor (bend) muscles.
- Add a leg weight to strengthen flexor muscles.
- Add more height to the rails for increased range of motion.
- Create various angles and patterns of obstacles/rails to work on turning motions.
- Increase walking speed.
- At home this exercise can be performed using logs, wood, toys, ladder, PVC pipe, or other items.
- Improves the gait by teaching your pet where to place its feet.
- Teaches your pet to better extend and flex the legs as it steps over a rail.
- Helps both the front and back legs.
- Improves voluntary motor control and accuracy in limb placement.