Duncan makes me smile: I look up from working away on my computer, only to find him up on some piece of equipment at my canine gym.
Do you have a dog that has incredible drive and willingness to “work” with you? They often are the dogs that are so curious that they get in trouble. Or used to (and maybe still do) jump up on your guests when uninvited. Always ready for anything and can’t sit still.
Little Duncan is just that dog. My prior Boston Terror’s had plenty of room to roam when I lived on the farm or when I lived in the woods with loads of swimming time in the lake. Thus at the end of each day they were tired. Duncan lives in the ‘burbs, has a lovely fenced yard and goes for long leash walks. However, he wants to do more!
This little dog beats me to the door to come with me to work; you see, I have a Canine Gym. He comes in my gym doors and jumps on the nearest piece of equipment. Just to say “let’s get to work”. We begin with our 5 minute warm up routine (includes some fun new concepts; but that’s another blog) and then focus on two new or review concepts. Total time: 15 minutes max.
When working with a dog new to canine conditioning, I always start with testing their core muscle strength and mental fortitude; this helps me create a program tailored to each dog’s current abilities. The conditioning exercises begin with ground work on the flat. Encouraging fluid posture with a few basic movement patterns such as down to stands and kick back stands to encourage muscle strengthening. (Strengthening a dog’s core is as important as it should be for us as humans.) I add in progressions to challenge the dog’s body & mind with new positions or unstable surfaces or subtle behaviors within existing movements.
Did you know it takes about 8 weeks for muscles to begin to strengthen?
You don’t need a dog gym to work with your dog, to encourage better behavior, to prevent injury and add to their overall physical and mental fitness. Start on the flats. Then find a hill outside. Look around for a pillow, a yoga block, a sleeping bag or a step stool. Do you have an aerobic step bench or a core stability disc from the good ole days of your own workouts? Take your time.
Where to begin? It sure helps if you learn the communication skill known as clicker training. http://www.clickertraining.com/get-started Not everyone likes to use the clicker device; rather they reward and interact with their dog using a special marker word such as “yes” or “good” when the dog presents a desired behavior/movement. I’ve trained many dogs over the years – and for me, using the clicker to mark (and reward) subtle movements, along with verbal communication enhances the interaction between the us.
What’s the most important interaction/marker we can use with our dogs? SMILING! Have you tried it? Maybe add some laughter. After all, hopefully we all have added dogs to our families to have some fun.