Jump to content
BC Boards

Strengthening the weak side

Recommended Posts

I made an interesting discovery about Ripley last night. We had an agility lesson with a trainer I've never worked with before, who is very adept at noticing things that others do not. She immediately noticed that Rip's right side is much stronger than his left. I have noticed this too, but didn't think much of it, as I think it's pretty common -- he wraps much tighter around a jump going to the right, and the couple of times he has been on stock he MUCH prefers to run out clockwise.


She had me feel his butt muscles and when she pointed it out, it was quite obvious that his right side is much more developed than his left. She wants me to work up to about 15 minutes a day of having him trot on the flat in counterclockwise circles to help him build up his left side. I think that sounds reasonable. I am also looking into hydrotherapy.


He is a rescue dog and I know nothing about his past. He's been with me since February, and came to me in pretty crummy shape. For all I know, he was either tied up or in a pen and going clockwise all day.


Any other advice on how to deal with this issue?



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Provided he is sound physically, backing can be great for strengthening. That's more of an "even" exercise than one sided, but it still might help.


You might try some very slow "puppy push ups", taking care to make sure his posture is straight when he is in his sit (holding a treat above the nose in dead center can help with this) and that he doesn't roll one way of the other in the down. One caution on those - just a few at a time.


Cavaletti might be good, too.


I would also probably do a good bit of flatwork with switches and turns in both directions.


Figure 8's with him in both left and right side heel could be helpful.


I know that none of those exercises favor one side or the other, but if you get him into good shape on both sides, I would imagine that things should even out a great deal.


Just be careful not to overdo when you start any new exercise regimen. When the dogs do these things, it looks effortless, but they feel it more than they show, especially when you first begin these sorts of things.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

She had me feel his butt muscles and when she pointed it out, it was quite obvious that his right side is much more developed than his left.


My foster, Rhys bach, came to me with his left hind leg very weak -- it felt as if it was just fur on sinew and bone. It was a legacy of an operation when he was a puppy (I don't know exactly what) followed by a life of being confined in a small back yard. Thankfully, he has tons of ball drive and I put him on a gradually increasing exercise regime. It took about 3 months, but now his muscle mass is virtually normal. I didn't run him specially in any direction and the closest to hydrotherapy I had available was running in the shallow water of the dog park lake.



Just be careful not to overdo when you start any new exercise regimen.


Yes, absolutely. Ramp it up vary carefully. I started with 5-10 mins of just rolling a ball for Rhys. Now he can run flat out for 1 - 1/2 hours without any problems.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you. I have no reason to believe that he's unsound. I just think that for whatever reason, his one side got built up much more than the other and then the problem compounded itself, as he is probably using his stronger leg to compensate for the weaker one. He's still quite powerful and can jump 4 feet off the ground from a standstill if he wants to :rolleyes: . My worry is that down the road, he will injure himself if he is unbalanced.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My worry is that down the road, he will injure himself if he is unbalanced.


I'd be concerned about that, too.


I think balance is the key. I probably wouldn't look to emphasize exercise on the weaker side - I would strive for balance.


One of those theraballs might help. I don't know how to use it, but there is a DVD. I think it's called "Get on the Ball". Clean Run has it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would get Rip checked out. Solo didn't show any real signs of lameness for years after I adopted him (he was 16 months old at the time) but he ultimately turned out to have major arthritis in his right hip, which, like Rip, he has compensated for by mostly using his left leg to run around. He didn't become really lopsided until a couple of years ago and he is 10 now. Solo can still do agility, but no one would call him fast (not that he was ever a speed demon, but you saw him in his prime) and he occasionally gets gimpy, so if he had been actively competing after I moved from Philly, which he wasn't, I would have retired him. I suspect that Solo also has arthritis in his back that might be secondary to the hip injury. I do think Solo's arthritis is due to injury as his left hip is basically perfect.


It might be worth getting an X-ray done so that if Rip has issues you know what they are and can treat him while he's young. Although Solo's mobility is good now, it could be better and I wish I'd gotten him on Adequan and joint supplements earlier.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

severe differences between sides of the body like you describe are not normal, even for a formerly malnourished dog. He may have an old injury on that side, hip dysplasia, whatever - but something has caused unilateral muscle atrophy.


Before you start any exercise program to "fix" this you need to have him checked out thoroughly, preferably by a vet experienced with orthopedics.


Just because he can do something, doesn't mean he's sound or not doing more damage.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If the vets don't find a cause for the lopsided muscle mass, then the theraball (pezziegg) is a great exercise for working the muscles, etc... You can also work on a hill - walking sideways across with the weaker leg on the lower part of the hill. This forces them to use the leg more. There are many rehab exercises that help build up the muscles. You may want to check with a rehab specialist who can show you exactly what to do at home.


And yes lopsided muscle mass/weakness can cause problems down the road. The CCL in the stronger leg could end up tearing or fully blowing out from overuse. This is one reason why many dogs that have surgery like TPLO on one leg have a greater chance of blowing out the other CCL.


Whatever the reason good luck...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I made an appointment for an ortho consult/x-rays on Saturday. I'll be biting my nails till then, and I don't even have nails!


Please send good luck our way.


I re-read my post and some of your responses, and I *think* (hope) I made it sound worse than it is. I think I can still feel this difference in his muscles, but visually the difference might be due to the cowlick on his right side :rolleyes: But in any case, getting him checked out is definitely a good idea. At least I'll know if anything's wrong and we can deal with any issues right away.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think you made a good decision to have Ripley thoroughly checked out by an ortho vet.

My aussie has an old injury and she most definitely compensates by using other parts of her body. That makes those other parts more prone to injury as well. This doesn't stop her from any activities that we do, however I am aware of it and will limit her at times.


Sending good luck your way. Let us know.

Michele &

Gypsy &


Link to comment
Share on other sites

I seriously doubt an agility instructor of any caliber is going to be fooled by hair in this situation.


Good point. And I would expect an agility instructor of any caliber, if this had the potential to be serious, would tell me to get it checked out. But instead she repeatedly assured me that "there's nothing wrong with him, he just has to build up his weak side."


Anyhow, I'll report back after we see the ortho.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good news! Rip is sound.


The ortho vet checked him out physically, and felt that his knees and hips are fine. She could not feel any difference in muscling from side to side. She said he exhibited a slight discomfort on extreme hyperextension of the hips but had a good range of motion.


The x-ray showed that his hip joints are well formed and symmetrical, with no signs of arthritis. His muscles also appeared normal in the x-ray. The only thing she saw was a very slight thickening of the femoral neck (the narrow part before the ball of the hip joint), probably due to the fact that he does have some degree of laxity. She suggested getting another x-ray in a year or two to see if there are any changes or progression (he is only 2 years old).


She recommended continuing what we are doing, keep him fit and thin, and use a maintainence dose of a glucosamine supplement (which he is already on). She said agility is fine, as long as we do it consistently. It would only be a problem if we did it once in a while. But working every day is a good thing.


I'm glad I got him checked out.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...