You already know why to practice fitness skills with your hound and now you’re ready to use some of your skills on equipment that you already have! If you’re just jumping into the fun now or need a refresher, click on the links below to “Teach Fido the Fundamentals:”
- Stand, sit and puppy push-ups
- Front, rear and all paw targeting on objects
- Sphinx down, play bow and nose touch (hold)
- Chin touch, shake with all four paws, circles and army crawling
- Lateral stepping and backwards walking
After you know some of the base skills, try these ideas:
Advanced Balancing on Elevated Platforms or Unstable Surfaces
Having your dog work safely on an unstable surface is challenging and will engage core and stabilizer muscles. You can use pillows, sofa cushions, duct-taped phone books or old college textbooks (the duct tape keeps the book closed), low step stools, bosu balls with the hard side down, inflatable exercise discs, balance beams or aerobics step platforms. Check your garage for items to use during your dog’s training session!
First, use one of the objects above as your “target” for front and rear targeting. For more of a challenge, use a more unstable surface, such as your bosu ball or exercise disc. Once you master that, try two harder objects next to each other so that your dog must balance front paws on one object and back paws on the other while standing!
Once that’s easy, work on these drills with your dog doing front paw, rear paw or all paw targeting on unstable surfaces:
- Play bow, sit, down, sphinx down or stand. Try combinations of multiple skills in a row. Keep repetitions short – it is very hard to do those skills with feet elevated, especially if the target surface is unstable.
- Nose touch or chin touch at different angles so your dog must balance his body while moving his head.
- Shake with all four paws individually. This takes incredible control!
- Hold each paw for five seconds individually in your hand while the other paws remain in contact with the floor or unstable target.
Next, with front paw targeting, use a treat in front of your dog’s nose so that he keeps his front legs on the object, such as a step stool, but pivots his back feet in a large circle on the floor. The front feet stay on the bosu ball and pivot in tiny steps; his back feet move all around the clock like hands of a clock touching the numbers on the clock face. At first, treat your dog for any rear paw steps and then eventually ask for more motion – more steps - around the clock. You can also do this pivoting exercise with rear paw targeting – your dog’s hind limbs would stay on the target object and his front limbs would pivot around the clock!
Are you lucky enough to have a long aerobics step platform or a child’s balance beam from gymnastics? If so, have your dog place his front paws on the platform or beam. Then work on lateral walking, meaning your dog walks sideways while keeping his front paws on the platform! You could also do lateral walking with the hind feet elevated.
What if you’re traveling and you only have a dog bed? Perfect! Have your dog stand on his foam dog bed and then work on shaking with all four paws. Hold an individual paw in your hand for five seconds. You can also do nose touches and chin touches while your dog is standing on a foam bed to have him shift weight. Try some puppy pushups, too! No foam bed? Lift your dog on top of your bed mattress to work on these skills, but be careful that he doesn’t leap off the bed.
Lie out six homemade cavaletti rails - golf clubs, pool noodles or PVC piping poles - on top of shoes or though the holes in some orange soccer cones - these should look like low horse jumps. The cavaletti rails should only be 2-3 inches high in the air. The spacing between the six "rails" should be the height of the dog at the withers (his spine behind his collar). Have the dog walk across the cavaletti rails in a controlled manner. The dog should not knock the rails and should learn to have rear end awareness and balance, while also working on increased flexion of his legs. Treat and praise your dog when he steps over the rails and does not knock them down or step on them.
One repetition is walking across all six rails and then turning around to walk back across the rails to the "starting line." The dog's head should be forward (not looking at the owner), so the dog may need to be off leash - in a safe area, such as a living room, closed garage or fenced yard - to have good form.
Extra credit? Have your dog back up over cavaletti rails using backward walking.
Feeling excited about doggie fitness? Stay tuned for an upcoming blog on “Fit Dogs: Shopping for Fitness Fun” if you’d like more information on continuing education and purchasing equipment.