Purpose: Ipsilateral (same side) foot target is a great exercise to strengthen the hip and shoulder abductor/adductors and leads easily into side stepping with all 4 feet. This is especially good for dogs who struggle to learn sidestepping via the “pivot” method shown in the Exercise Foundations video.
Equipment: Large platform or Rocker Board or 1 or 2 Cato Board
Targets: The hip and shoulder abductor/adductors are often overlooked and under used, because most of a dog’s motion happens in the median plan (cuts the dog into right and left halves). BUT any time a dog turns or changes direction, the hip and shoulder abductor/adductors have to engage to overcome forward momentum to make a slight or abrupt course change. The faster the dog is going, the more taxing a sideways movement is on these muscles.
Iliopsoas strain and medial shoulder injuries can happen when the forces generated in the movement exceed the muscle/tendon’s contractile strength. This is true whether a powerful dog is changing direction quickly, or if a dog simply slips because of a compromised or slick surface.
Setup: In this exercise, I use a platform angled at about 30° above the horizontal, to encourage Ron Burgundy to step to the side, but more importantly to step UP with ipsilateral feet simultaneously. This added elevation promotes more shoulder and hip abduction than a horizontal plank or foot target, adding clarity, and allowing for clear understanding on the dog’s part (and an easy mark/reward on my part).
Too much elevation too quickly will leave the shoulder and hip vulnerable, and risks strain of the smaller muscles inside the hip and shoulder. It’s important that the dog moves with control. For dogs who enthusiastically try ant target the very top of the platform (where the top of the platform meets the wall) a lower platform (like a standing platform with the long edge resting on the ground) can be used to discourage a super high leg lift.
After the dog is demonstrating understanding of the Ipsilateral foot target, it’s easy to add distance… And like magic, the dog is side stepping!!! Because the dog has been “primed” mentally and physically, the transition is actually pretty automatic. If the dog starts offering different behaviors, losing interest, etc. it’s likely the handler…
- Has progressed too quickly/hasn’t built value to the ipsilateral foot target
- Moved too far away from the target too quickly.