Cavaletti comes from the Italian word Cavallino that means “little horse”, and has been used in horse training for years, it also reminds me of 'ladder work' that my son used to do to help with general conditioning and footwork when he played competitive Tennis.

More recently Cavaletti has become popular in canine conditioning and rehabilitation. The exercise involves spacing out a set of poles for a dog to step over. It's great for coordination, balance and conditioning, what’s more, it’s easy to do at home.

Cavaletti improves rear end awareness as your dog will have to be aware of where they are placing their legs to miss the poles. It can also improve stridge length as the distance between the poles can be changed to regulate stridge length. It also strengthens muscles involved in limb flexion and teaches your dog to pick up their feet.


You will need four to six poles about one meter in length, broom or mop handles or even a snooker cue will do.

Something to elevate the poles off the ground slightly so they are at wrist height (books, tin cans, or small cones work well).

If you measure the distance between the floor and our dog’s shoulder, this will give you the correct space between the poles; for some dogs such as Basset Hounds which have long backs and are low to the floor, you will need to measure along their spine to the base of the tail to get the right distance. As a guide – large dogs will be about 30-40 cm, medium dogs 20-30 cm, and small dogs 15-20 cm apart. 

Cavaletti should never be so high that they become jumps; stepping over the pole configuration is the point. It’s recommended that they be no higher than your dog’s elbow.

To start with, you need to place 4-6 poles a little closer than shoulder height apart.

Be careful working with the poles on the ground. If your dog accidentally steps on a pole it may roll away causing an injury.

If your dog is new to this exercise or rehabbing from injury they should be on a lead

Once set up, slowly guide your dog from one end of the poles to the other. Make sure one leg goes in each section at a time. You want this to be a slow but continuous movement. 

You can modify the distance between the poles if your dog is not single-stepping the spaces. You can also modify the height if your dog is knocking bars. The height should never exceed elbow height.

Turn your dog and repeat the exercise.

Build to 10 repetitions in a row – one repetition is one row of poles and build to 3 sets

Complete the exercise 3-4 times a week.


In dogs under 18 months old, you need to be careful with the number of repetitions and frequency of the exercise.

Healthy dogs over 18months old can build repetitions.

You can progress until you can complete 10 repetitions, building to 3 sets, 3 - 4 times a week.