I started my career with animal training in the world of horses. Due to my past I am constantly finding connections between dogs and horses when it comes to conditioning. There is one thing most equestrian competitors have in common and that is the ability to set up and execute a Cavaletti configuration. Fun fact, the word Cavaletti is actually Italian, and means “little horse.” Although I will not be entering my dogs in a Halter class anytime soon, I find Cavaletti training just as beneficial for my agility dogs and keeping my seniors fit and moving.
One benefit to dog equipment vs equine, is it’s smaller and lighter. You can easily set up a Cavaletti workout even in small spaces. They are easy to construct from PVC, or you can buy a set online. The spacing and height of the poles will cause the dog to move in different ways. There are a lot of cavaletti configurations and using a variety will improve proprioception, balance, strength, and flexibility.
As with any exercise, be sure to warm your dog up and cool them down when finished. I like to start with puppy pushups, precision heeling figure eights, and stretching for a cool down.
The configuration example below of a straight line will work on increasing your dogs speed by lengthening their stride.
Are you novice to Cavaletti use and want to try it? Start by measuring your dog from floor to withers (highest point of shoulder, if your dog has a longer back than leg use the length of their spine excluding the tail), that is the space between poles you will use. For example, my dog is 24 inches at his withers, so my poles will be spaced at 24 inches apart. Cavaletti height for this would be ankle height or lower. Dogs will walk this line until they’re comfortable with the concept. The goal with this will be having the dog trot through the cavaletti while one forelimb and one hindlimb step between the poles. Gradually you will increase the distance between poles which will lengthen stride.
Here is a video of Māui’s latest Cavaletti workout. Music selection by Scarlett.