Tips and Tricks

SirPrize recently passed his Novice and Intermediate Trick Dog Tests, and although I didn’t train these tricks specifically for these tests it got me thinking, many of the tricks he knows are because of the fitness training we do!

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Often times people who train with me will ask, ” Why do you want to know if “Rex” can nose touch or shake a paw?”

Simply because we can USE these tricks in our conditioning training! With a trick such as the nose touch, you can get your dog to shift his weight on his own without having to do it manually by applying pressure to his body. The same unassisted weight shifting also occurs when we ask the dog to perform “shake/paw” trick while on balance equipment. Not only that, but it gets your dog thinking more and a thinking dog is getting the added benefit of getting a mental workout and not just a physical one. In addition, the bond that comes with this training time grows stronger between the handler and the dog. Put all of this together and you get a happy, mentally stimulated, pooped pooch!

Along with these two tricks, you can increase the difficulty in the weight shifting exercise by teaching your dog to “wave” or “high five”. The added independent motion of the dog having to balance himself with greater instability will make this once-simple core exercise more advanced. Want to add more motion? Find your dog’s favorite ball or toy and teach them how to catch it. Catching is a skill in itself, but add it to a balance prop and the benefits are compounded. (Keep in mind this is an advanced skill. Your dog has to be strong enough to find his balance and hold it with the other ‘tricks’ before adding this to your routine.)

Can your dog turn a circle right and left on the flat? Doing it on a piece of balance equipment makes this an advanced exercise too. It takes core strength, body awareness and control.

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The list of tricks that can be used in some form or another goes on and on! Some can be used as part of a warm up routine, some can be used as an exercise in itself, and others make an exercise more advanced. Here are some additional examples:

  • Crawl
  • Leg weave
  • Rollover
  • Sit Pretty
  • Paws Up
  • Target
  • Back up
  • Jump

So while trick training to some may just be cute or a fun bonding experience with your dog I say, use what you’ve trained (or train some new tricks) and apply them to your fitness training routine to keep it interesting for you and your dog.

 

happy training

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Progress

Eight weeks of class training. Five runs in USDAA in April + 3 runs at AKC Nationals + 1 day at a local AKC show = 10 runs.

All of the hard work paid off.

Bolt (and Meg), have made the AKC United States World Team for the second time. And while that was one of the goals in getting Bolt back in shape, it is actually the icing on the cake. The ultimate goal is keeping him in top condition. When they had gone to tryouts, Bolt had only been back to agility for 2 months. Yet when he stepped into that ring, he was physically ready to go.Messages Image(31003666)

Even though he had an injury to a front limb (toe), it was important to give him a balanced plan and not just work the front assembly. Being on rest for so long would not only cause his front end to weaken, but also his entire body. It was vital not to overwork the one weaker area, as tempting as that may seem, as it can cause an imbalance in the body.

As you may remember, after veterinarian clearance, we began exercising Bolt as if he were just beginning fitness training (Find it here: Onward!). During the months leading up to tryouts, we added on various exercises that would strengthen and challenge all of Bolt’s body parts : core, front, rear, and back.

Initially, we did this exercise standing on a stable platform and progressed to the K9FITbone. image1.pngAmong other things, I had Meg ask Bolt to look right and left and watch her as she walked a circle around him. These variations caused him to shift his weight in all directions while working the small stabilizer muscles in his core.

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One of the exercises we did for the shoulders, chest, carpals and toes was to stand with the rear feet on the K9FITbone with the front feet on two pods. We included some variations using this same set up in order to challenge these muscles groups in various ways.

image1 2Many exercises will work more than one part of the body but often they will have a primary focus.

For example, although this exercise has a main focus on the rear, it also works the core (as we are asking for a tuck sit and kick back stand) and front since Bolt is targeting his front feet on an unstable object.

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Even though Meg has been working with me for a while, we reviewed what she needed to watch for to insure proper form not only for safety sake, but also in order to get the most out the exercises.

This is only a snapshot of what Bolt did to get back to his old self. By having a variety of exercises to work from, we were able to challenge his muscles in a multitude of ways by changing the exercises and also giving his brain a mental workout at the same time.

Meg’s goal was met but the journey is not over. Today it’s a trip to the Czech Republic on the World Team; tomorrow, life. Canine conditioning is not just for the World Team competitor. The benefits are endless for our companions as we travel with them into their golden years.

happy trainingPS: If you want to continue to follow Meg and Bolt’s journey, visit them at Unstoppable dogs