Purpose: The hip adductors are a group of muscles that play a HUGELY important role in spine, hip, and stifle stability. This muscular chain begins on the ventral aspect of the lumbar spine with the iliopsoas, runs along the inner parts of the pelvis with the sartorius and gracilis and attaches down the femur to the medial aspect of the tibia (below the stifle) with the semitendinosus.
Equipment: TheraBand, Raised Foot Target, Manners Minder or second handler, 3 PawPods (optional)
Targets: Activating this chain can take some creativity due to the muscle location, and how a quadruped uses them to stabilize against forces (isometric) vs doing an actual movement (concentric/eccentric). This is where the TheraBand can be helpful.
This exercise was suggested to us by a rehab professional, as a way to help stabilize the “pivot shift” Hot Rod has developed as a result of her TPLO. But it’s actually a great exercise to target the hip adductors in general.
Because many of the adductors are also hip flexors (muscles have a primary action as well as a secondary and tertiary action), the specific line of pull applied to the TheraBand, will target different muscles. 45° caudal/lateral (backward and away from the midline) generally produces the most significant engagement of the adductors. This is detailed in the video.
Steps: Using my hand to palpate the inner leg, I applied tension to a flat (not twisted) TB seated high up on the femur, at the 45° vector, with just enough tension to feel the adductors change tension from flaccid to engaged / firm. Hold for a period of time (3-10 seconds). Release the pressure slowly feeling the musculature soften slightly. Reward the dog.
Watchpoints: Feeling for the change in muscle tone is important. Without feeling the adductor change texture (high on the medial/inner aspect of the thigh), it’s unlikely the correct muscles will be targeted.
Also, it doesn’t take much pressure on the TheraBand to create the engagement. Pulling too strongly, or releasing too quickly will pull the pelvic limb out of place, or throw the dog off balance.
NOTE: Ideally Hot Rod would be maintaining a neutral spine/head position throughout, vs looking back toward the working leg. Using the manners minder as demonstrated in the Focus Forward video or a second handler would have resulted in better alignment in this exercise.
Necessary Skills: Using a bridge/marker between behavior and reward (there are not enough hands to stretch the TB, palpate, and reward simultaneously), or you can recruit a friend to help deliver rewards.
This is a complex exercise which requires a dog to be fluent in many component pieces. Teaching each part individually is important. The prerequisites may need to be revisited for this exercise to be successful.