Monday, December 16, 2013

Make Your Dog's Workouts Fun!

It is important for active dogs to have the strength to compete in the activities they love without getting hurt. However, most people (and dogs) find exercises that accomplish these goals to be extremely boring. They don’t have to be! Here are five ways to make your dogs strength building exercises fun for both of you!

Get Creative
Do you find a particular exercise extremely boring? Figure out what the exercise is trying to accomplish and find a more creative way to accomplish the same thing. For example, we find passive range of motion exercises to be about as exciting as watching paint dry, but range of motion is important. One of our alternative solutions for many dogs is to teach them to put 4 feet in a box. This requires them to pick up their legs and still results in their legs going through the appropriate range of motion, but is way more fun for all of us!

Train with a group
Everything is more fun with a group! Find friends to train with, or attend a class. Not only are you and your dog going to have more fun, you are also much more likely to consistently get your dog the exercise he needs.

Switch up exercises
Repeating the same exercise week after week can get really boring very quickly. Luckily different exercises can help accomplish the same goals. For example, hat box sits combined with backing up on an objects results in rear end strength gains, and improved proprioception. Very similar gains can be seen with 4 feet in a box combined with sits to stands with front feet on an object. Combining different sets of exercises not only keeps things fun, but also increases the benefits you will see in strength gains since the muscles are used in slightly different ways.

Add challenges to a known exercise
Once your dog knows an exercise change it up! This will not only keep things fun, but it will result in a stronger dog. For example backing up is a great way to improve rear end strength. Once your dog can back up, teach him to back up onto a 2-3 inch tall object. But don’t stop there! As he gets comfortable with this object switch it up and see what he can back up onto. Can your dog backup onto an elbow height box, a fitness pod, a peanut, the couch, the stairs? What else can you think of to teach your dog to back up onto? Progress slowly and keep safety in mind, but add challenges to keep things fun!

Play to your dogs strengths
Find ways to make exercises that you and your dog find exciting! If your dog loves to put his feet on things, take advantage of that. Your dog might find sits to stands with paws on an elbow height object way more fun than sits to stands on a peanut. Make sure that you still add variety to your exercises, but consider what your dog enjoys and what he’s good at.

These same ideas apply to people too!

So get out, have fun, and increase your dog’s fitness so you can have more fun adventures together!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Capital Area Humane Society Dog Parkour Workshop!

Everyone had a lot of fun at our first Dog Parkour (Urban Agility) workshop with Capital Area Humane Society dogs and volunteers! We believe that dog training should be fun for everyone regardless of skill level and experience. Training shelter dogs is often frustrating for volunteers as they don't think they are making progress of succeeding.  Dog parkour is a great activity for shelter dogs because it increases their confidence, builds positive associations with working with people, and tires them out physically and mentally!

We had six awesome dogs and volunteers for this workshop. All the dogs are looking for a good home! Here is what we have learned about the dogs in the hour we worked with them.

Carlos: Carlos is an 11 month old Lab mix. He loves to play ball and train, and has lots of potential as a sports dog or active companion.

Luther: Luther is a year old lab mix that loves people and is a goofy, fun dog looking for an owner with a sense of humor similar to his.
                                                                        Gabe: Gabe is a 3 year old Pittie mix. He likes to work and train, and is very focus when working. He would enjoy a home who will teach him new things , and take him on adventures.

Baloo: Baloo is a 2 year old Pittie mix. He was incredibly focused when training and has great awareness of how his body works. He would love an active home that is ready to give him the time and training he wants.

Liz Lemon: Liz Lemon is a year old Pittie Mix. In addition to having the most adorable ears, Liz Lemon  loves butt scratches and gives things a thoughtful consideration before leaping in.

Sunny: Sunny is a 2 year old Lab mix. Sunny would love to show you everything she knows and what a good dog she can be. She is a parkour rockstar and a really fun dog!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Training Urban Agility Skills: Inside an Object

Skill: 4 Feet in an object
Benefits:  Increased proprioception, increased balance, increased range of motion
Sports applications: Obedience-directed jumping/retrieves, Agility-body awareness
Safety: This is a fairly safe exercise, but be sure to check the edges and bottom of the object to be sure they won’t scrape, cut, or otherwise injure your dog.
How to train: Start with a large object that has sides just tall enough that your dog has to step over them to get into the object. Reinforce for any interaction with the object including things such as head into box, one foot in, or pawing at it. Gradually increase your criteria until your dog is getting all four feet in the object without hesitation. You can now increase the difficulty by decreasing the size of the object or increasing the height of the sides.
Advanced Version: Send your dog to specific objects from a distance. This is a great way to practice directing your dog to a specific location.
Find objects that move. This can be things with wheels or something that tips when the dog gets into it. This is a great foundation for teeter work.

Practice obedience exercises in the objects such as sit, down, stand or spin.