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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all,

My GSD rescue, Heinz, has been with us for about a year now, and he's doing fantastic. The vets guess he's 5-6 years old .When we first got him, he was underweight and was so weak behind he fell off of curbs and couldn't climb more than 3 steps in a row. I assumed this was because he was malnourished and had probably been tied out with no exercise and his rear muscles were atrophied.

While he's definitely improved, I think he's still got an issue with hip weakness. Observations that support this: He can't jump in my station wagon without a run up. He slips around on the hardwood and his hips are the first to fall. He often sits crooked. After a lot of exercise, I'll notice him striding a little shorter with the right hind. He also kind of bunny-hops with his rear legs when he's running full out.

I suspect some of this is genetics/poor breeding (he's really long in the back, see attached thumbnail) and I've got him on Cosequin which seems to help the stiffness.

All that said, are there some specific exercises I can be doing to help build those muscles up more? Based on what I know from horses, I am thinking:

Long trot "sets" (means jogging for me)
Hill work (trot up and walk slowly down hill)
Swimming (means I either need to drive an hour to get to the good dog park or get a membership at the day care with the pool, so probably not do-able)

Also, what about working with a backpack? He has a Mountainsmith dogpack which fits very well, and he's helped us carry a light load of groceries a few blocks. He definitely walks slower and has to really think about his balance. I think continuing to use the pack would be great for muscle building, but I want to make sure I'm not going to hurt his back.

Any other thoughts? Should we avoid anything for now?
 

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I would avoid anything with jumping but all of your ideas are really good, especially swimming but too bad thats one of your more difficult options.
He looks much healthier, good job for helping him :] Just keep him lean too to ease stress on hips. I'm sure plenty of others have more ideas for you
 

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Hill work is what a vet physical therapist (she was a vet) told me for a dysplastic dog.

She was not so hot on swimming (though she was of fond of water wading) because she says swimming can cause a lot of overextension but there is not enough resitance to build muscle well.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for the ideas so far, keep 'em coming.

Interesting about the swimming. He WAS more stiff after his one and only swimming adventure here. We also tried a little jumping over some obstacles on that trip as well, so that could have caused it. Tough to say.

I do keep Heinz on the lean side. I try not to let him top 90 lbs (he's 29" at the shoulder). I can feel ribs and spine under the fur, I assume that's pretty good.

Now we need to find a hill within walking distance. You wouldn't think this would be so hard, but I live in Houston. Which is not known for its changes in natural elevation.
 

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No jumping or high impact activities. A backback will probably exacerbate his problems because of the extra weight.

Hills and long walks/hikes are excellent. My vets have always recommended swimming to strengthen the back end. I have not noticed it causing any problems. If you can afford water therapy that would obviously be great. Walking in water is also good.

A good diet and supplements are also very important.
 

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Trotting (especially good on an incline)
Perch work (dogs front feet on an object and side steps with back legs to pivot himself around the object. Make sure you do both directions.)
Cavaletti work (trotting over low bars that are spaced twice the length of the height of the dog)
Sit to stand (you can do this on hills too)
Backing up (also good on hills)

Swimming I have been told (from a vet physiotherapist) is not great for rear end strengthening since the vast majority of the work is done by the front.

I found this video a while back... it has some good stuff in it.

Beckham's strengthening exercises- hip dysplasia - YouTube
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks, that video is super helpful! I think the work on the ball might be a little bit too advanced for my klutz :)

May have to start taking him out to the barn so I can use the ground poles in the ring as dog cavaletti.
 
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