Introduction to the Exercise Ball

Small black and rust colored hound dog is putting her front paw on a red exercise ball (peanut shaped). Her mouth is open, anticipating a treat.

Zani’s ready for a treat for foot targeting the peanut

I bought an exercise ball, a FitPAWS peanut, from CleanRun a couple of years ago. It’s a device to help dogs develop core strength and balance.

After seeing some YouTube videos and even a professional DVD that showed dogs and puppies being placed on exercise balls and held there while they were clearly stressed and uncomfortable, I decided to make a video showing how I introduced my dogs to the ball. We went comparatively slowly, over the course of a few days, with no force or pressure. I wanted my dogs to have a great association with the ball and no anxiety attached to it. So from the very beginning they always had a choice; they could walk away, jump off, take a break.

As is typical, giving them choice in the matter and building good associations made them absolutely fanatically fixated on getting on the ball! And once more, going slow turned out to be fast!

Small black and rust colored hound dog has both  her front paws on a red exercise ball (peanut shaped).

Zani has her whole front end up on the peanut!

You can see in the short video that I used a combination of shaping, targeting, and treat placement to get Zani happily on the ball in a few daily sessions. This method can be used to introduce a dog to all sorts of unfamiliar objects and equipment.

Small black and rust colored hound is standing on top of a red exercise ball (peanut shaped).

And she’s up on the peanut!

Zani’s a confident little dog and I probably could have done it all in one day, but 1) I wanted to take no risks of rushing her psychologically; and 2) we are dealing with a physical skill that builds muscles, and I didn’t want to overdo.

If you are considering getting an exercise ball for your dog, be sure and check it out with your vet. Also, size the ball correctly (CleanRun and the ball vendors such as  can help with that). I hope your dog enjoys it as much as Zani does.

I like easy ways (for me!) to exercise my dogs. Don’t forget flirt poles, too!

Link to the video for email subscribers.

Thanks for watching!

Coming up:

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About eileenanddogs

Passionate amateur dog trainer, writer, and learning theory geek. Eileen Anderson on Google+
This entry was posted in Dog training hints, Enrichment, Positive Reinforcement, Toys and Play, Training philosophy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Introduction to the Exercise Ball

  1. Sam Tatters says:

    Loved this! We’ve been having a bit of a play with some FitPAWS equipment lately, though I can’t afford a peanut just yet, Starr had her first introduction to the Balance Disc last week: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZ7MG7Xdl3I

  2. Marjorie says:

    Sorry, but I just don’t get this. Why do dogs need to develop core strength and balance beyond ehat they already have? Is it used for dogs that have been injured, like physio? I guess I’m a less is more person.

    • Hi Marjorie, I’m glad you asked since others are probably wondering as well. These balls and peanuts are popular among people who do dog sports like agility. For myself, I often can’t exercise my dogs much during the week, but then we do agility on the weekends. I don’t want them to be “weekend athletes” and risk asking them to do things that might be too hard on them. Another reason for Zani to work on her core strength is that she is a moderately long backed dog, and I would like to keep those muscles healthy and supporting the joints properly. Also, it’s a good mental and physical workout combined if your dog needs some stimulation.

      I hope everybody realizes that my video didn’t show a workout. That was just getting her up on the ball. Here is a video that shows some of the things that people teach “performance puppies” to learn proprioception (particularly of the hind legs) and attain strength and balance. The balance ball stuff is at the end. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwUTLYKyYcE

      Hope this helps. This is definitely a “niche” issue that is only important or interesting to some.

  3. Marjorie says:

    Thanks for the clarification Eileen. It’s amazing what’s out there these days.

  4. Linda says:

    This is a great way to get a dog used to the peanut, as opposed to the method shown on the DVD by the expert, which /i have never felt comfortable doing with my 70# over-active Lab. He is very clicker savvy, so we will try your method. THANKS!

  5. Indoor activities like this is also great for rainy days with training or walking is not practical. It keeps their minds active and helps to curb boredom and unwanted behaviors. The more different things you are teach or dog the better, like us they too like variation and something new every now and then. One also finds the more you teach them the more they want to learn.

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