Functional Exercise for Dogs: An Intro

This is the first in a series of posts about functional exercise. I am inspired by The Martial Arfs blog series about conditioning principles.

When I evaluate an exercise, I tend to think about it from a functional standpoint and answer these three questions:

  • what is the muscle’s action?
  • what is the joint’s range of motion?
  • what we are trying to achieve?

My plan for this series is to highlight specific exercises and to discuss how each exercise is functional.

Solo navigating cavaletti rails

Solo navigating cavaletti rails


What is Functional Exercise?

According to Wikipedia, “Functional training is a classification of exercise which involves training the body for the activities preformed in daily life.”

Functional Training improves the working relationship between the nervous system and muscular system by

  • Improving coordination
  • Varying the types of muscular contractions (concentric, eccentric, isometric)
  • Varying the speed and direction of movement
  • Working throughout the normal range of motion of the joints.

It includes a variety of exercises that improve flexibility, core strength, balance, strength, and body awareness.

Balance work and core strengthening

Balance work and core strengthening


Functional training improves every day skills by:

  • Utilizing the whole body, with dynamic movement, in both directions (as applicable),
  • Mimicking something the animal normally does
  • In a safe, low impact way
  • While progressively increasing the difficulty so that the muscles get stronger.
Hydrotherapy is one way to provide low impact strengthening exercise.

Hydrotherapy is one way to provide low impact strengthening exercise.


If a dog competes in a sport, exercises need to be appropriate for that sport in order to prevent injury.  If a dog is recovering from injury, exercises need to complement activities in life so that the dog can function in as normal a way as possible.

Ideally, we should provide exercise variety that is beneficial for real-life activities and is fun for both the person and the dog.



  1. I’m looking forward to reading about the different exercises!

  2. Hi Y’all!

    Looks like performance horse training.

    Y’all come on by,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  3. This looks like a great series – we love folks who really take exercising their dogs seriously.

  4. That makes a lot of sense. Nice idea for a series and thanks for joining in the blog hop.

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