Last June I attended the workshop Improving Your Dog’s Strength and Flexibility. I’ve shared many of the strength building exercises with friends and family, and I’ve worked with my own dogs over these last three months to improve their strength and flexibility. Below is what I’ve learned, and how I’d like to continue to work with my dogs.
Keep your dog thin!
Since the workshop, Kinsey has dropped weight. At her heaviest she weighed sixty-three pounds. She’s down to fifty eight. I can see her ribs now just a bit when she walks. But, keeping her at a healthy weight will be a lifelong goal. She circumvents weight loss at every opportunity–picking avocados from my tree, or eating poop off the grass. I must be vigilant. 🙂
Improve core strength!
The most important thing I’ve learned about improving my dog’s core strength over the last three months? Start slow. Dr. Otto’s recommendation was to begin with three reps. I didn’t listen. If there’s food involved, Quincy will do a hundred reps. Now, we didn’t do that many, but we did more than three per day. So, about a week in she wouldn’t jump into the car or up on the furniture. When I picked her up she yelped like she was going to die. Since she’s nearly 12 years old I was certain she had a terminal disease. We stopped all core strength building! Quincy needed to rest! After about three days of relaxation, she was back to her usual self. No terminal disease. She had sore abs. My fault.
As I reviewed my notes from the workshop, I also realized that I’d been training beg incorrectly. When I trained it, I’d been rewarding standing up off the ground. Sherlock will actually go all the way up on his hind legs, practically eye to eye with me. But, with beg his rear end should stay on the ground. It’s more of a straight back movement than a stand on your legs like a human movement. (Sherlock is quite the model. Be sure to check him out in the video!)
Another trick we’ve worked on is getting into and out of boxes and baskets. I vary the size of the box, as well as the height of its sides. It improves core strength, as well as front and rear end awareness. Quincy picked this up very quickly, and is more than happy to jump in and out of most any box for a treat.
Before you work your dog, she needs a warm up!
Kinsey and I have jogged around and done a couple of figure eighths before working a rubble pile. Unfortunately, when we’re working and I’m thinking about how to search the pile, I often forget to do a warm up with Kinsey. I want to get better about incorporating a warm up because as she ages I know it will decrease her risk of injury on the rubble pile.
Next Step: Teaching Sit to Stand
This move is excellent for rear end awareness and building core strength. When your dog is in sit, you say “stand” and she should pop up her rear legs and be in the standing position. I’ve begun teaching this move to Kinsey, and once she gets it, I plan to add it to her warm up.
One of the best things that came out of this seminar is learning how to teach my dogs tricks that also improve their fitness. It keeps them both healthy and happy. Really, it was one of the most informative workshops I’ve ever attended!
Below is a video of some of the dogs I’ve worked with on beg. As you watch, you’ll see there’s a whole range of core strength! My goal is gradual improvement for all of the dogs.