Doggie pushups are a fun and engaging exercise routine for dogs that can help build their strength, agility, and mental focus.
It’s essentially a series of commands that your dog follows, incorporating the two different movements of “sit” and “down”.
The best part is that this dog exercise is easy to teach!
Disclaimer: This blog post was originally published in 2017 and has been updated in 2023. It contains affiliate links I may earn compensation through at no additional cost to you.
How to Teach Doggie Pushups: The Benefits
But first, I’d like to point out its benefits!
You probably know that a strong human core reduces and prevents injuries.
But did you know that the same concept is true for dogs?
Teaching doggie pushups really does come with a plethora of benefits:
- Strengthens the bond between you and your dog(s)
- Maintains flexibility in your dog
- Gets rid of pent-up energy
- It’s a K9 core strengthener
- Builds those K9 abs
- Burns calories
They get bonus points in my book for being fairly easy to teach, so what’s not to love about this exercise?
Check out Missy & Buzz in the video below to see what doggie pushups look like:
So How Do I Teach Doggie Pushups?
As Missy & Buzz just demonstrated, doggie pushups are a back and forth motion between a “sit” and a “down” position.
So it’s easy to teach if your dog already knows those two commands.
Simply tell him to “sit” and then to “lie down”.
Repeat that motion several times – that’s it!
I typically ask the pups for 3-5 reps in one session and reward them with a tasty treat at the end of the exercise.
I Use Food Rewards
Use whatever (food) reward works best for your pup.
I love using single-ingredient dog treats that don’t contain any crap like artificial colors or preservatives, but that’s just my personal preference.
Plus, I’m a raw feeder, so the treats I use for the pups reflect their diet.
Side note: If your dog is more motivated by a favorite toy or TLC rewards from you, then use that!
Whatever motivates your dog to work is fine.
Sometimes, I reward with a small, bite-size treat.
Other times, I give more of a jackpot style treat like a dehydrated duck neck.
The size of the treat really doesn’t matter to the pups, but I like to keep them guessing at what Mommy will dish out next to keep it interesting and worth working for.
What If My Dog Doesn’t Know The “Sit” And “Down” Commands?
No worries if your dog doesn’t know the “sit” and “down” commands quite yet.
Both are easy to teach – I used a combination of capturing and shaping the behaviors when I taught them to Missy & Buzz.
How does capturing work?
Capturing simply means to catch your dog in the act of doing the desired behavior.
So when Missy & Buzz would lie down on their own, I’d reward them with a treat and associate the word “down” with it.
I applied the same logic to whenever they sat on their own – reward and associate the word “sit” with it.
How does shaping work?
Shaping means showing them what you want them to do.
So in order to help them learn the “sit” command, I’d hold a small treat right above their noses when they were in a standing position. Then, I slowly moved it back towards their heads, right in between their ears.
What happened is that they followed the movement of the treat, meaning their butts hit the ground. Once they did, I associated the word “sit” with the position.
Super easy, right?!
When shaping the “down” position, I’d have them stand or sit, hold a small treat in my hand and move that hand towards the ground, between their paws.
Again, they followed the movement of the treat, and ended up lying on the ground.
Once they did, I said “down”. Also pretty easy to teach.
- Don’t practice on slippery surfaces. Non-slippery surfaces like carpet or grass provide much better traction than tile or hardwood.
- Don’t practice right after your dog eats. There’s a time for everything and exercising right after your dog eats is a bad idea. At best, the food will come back up, at worst, your dog will die from bloat.
- Don’t overdo it. Keep exercise sessions short and fun. I like to exercise 3-4 times a day for no longer than 5 minutes each session. TV commercial breaks are a great time for little exercise sessions, by the way!
How to Teach Doggie Pushups: Bottom Line
Doggie pushups are easy to teach because the only prerequisites are the “sit” and the “down” positions. Both are two basic obedience commands that are also fairly easy to teach.
They’re a great strength-training exercise that can easily be used to burn energy and calories when we’re stuck inside on those crappy days. I’m thinking snow, high winds, and pouring rain.
Enjoy your doggie pushup practice sessions, but avoid them right after your pups eat to avoid bloat.
I typically wait for 60 minutes after feeding time until I ask Missy & Buzz to perform any type of exercise.
Are you currently practicing core-strengthening exercises with your dog? As always, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below this blog post!
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