In this our first exercise for Week 2 we’re going to introduce our pups to standing with their front paws on a platform of some sort. I really like the physio balance pods, there's a link to one of those here but you can use anything, something round and a few inches off the floor is ideal but a set of bathroom scales will work just as well for this exercise!
In the exercise we’re helping our dogs understand the behaviour of standing still in one place but it’s also a great exercise for helping you to practice using your marker word ‘Yes!’ or the clicker if you have one.
When you first attempt this exercise, be ready to click (or say 'Yes!’) and reward your dog straight away, because you may well get the behaviour you want, which is the dog putting their front paws on the obstacle immediately and you need to be ready to capture that.
Jim hasn't seen this set of scales before but I'm anticipating that he will stand on it straightaway because we've done enough exercises that are similar and I'm ready to click as soon as he puts his feet near it and give him a little treat.
It might take you a little longer to get your pup happily stepping onto whatever it is you're using but just toss some treats on the surface and give your pup encouragement and time to experiment. Just be ready to ‘mark’ the desired behaviour of touching the platform with a paw with a click or ‘Yes!’ when it happens! It might take a few sessions depending on how confident your pup is exploring new things.
What you're looking for is your dog’s face to light up and for him to try and jump on the platform as soon as you put it down so keep going with this until you get that sort of response.
Listen and you'll notice that I'm clicking as soon as his feet touch the balance pod and that's what you want to do with your dog. This is a lovely exercise just to take your time and practice - you're getting used to using the clicker or your marker word to mark behaviour so you can keep quiet and just concentrate on watching your dog and clicking when they do what you're after, which in this case is to put a paw on the obstacle.
Mark any attempt to put a foot on the obstacle, even if they touch it accidentally it’s still worth clicking to give them encouragement especially if they're a little suspicious of standing on it.
When your dog is really comfortable move on to keeping him on it for a little longer and reward for eye contact as we did in Exercise 1.1 The Up & Down Game.
This exercise is a great foundation exercise for Station Training and Stand-Stay so our pups get used to moving to a particular place and staying there until we say they can move away. Staying in place in a stand is really helpful for grooming, teeth cleaning, washing down after a walk, at the vets and all sorts of other places.
In this exercise we explore some wonderful exercises to mentally and physically stimulate our pups with the main goal of developing rear end awareness.
Dogs don't have much natural rear end awareness and, if not taught, it can cause them to be out of balance when performing certain basic body movements and exercises. In any activity like jumping and turning they need the rear portion of their body to follow through with the activity they are doing for proper form to avoid stresses and strains and potential injuries.
A dog that doesn’t have good rear end awareness often appears to be a little gangly, the dog may fall or miss his step often, all of which can lead to small internal injuries of the joints, muscles and/or connective tissue. Over time, this can lead to more serious injuries, causing pain and discomfort to your dog along with time and money spent on the care and treatment of the injury.
All dogs benefit from having a good awareness of where the back feet, legs and rear portion of their body is at and it’s especially important for any sort of activity or dog sport where the dog may be jumping or turning at speed.
In this exercise we explore some really fun training activities you can do with your dog to not only help improve rear end awareness but also increase the bond between you both, build confidence and make sure your furry friend keeps fit and healthy!
1. Paws On, Bottoms Up
We’ve already taught our dog to put his front paws up on a balance disk or similar bowl or box (Paws On). This in itself is a good exercise as it shifts weight to the rear limbs and engages the core muscles.
Now we can build on this behaviour and teach him there are two more feet back there!
2. Back Up
Teaching your dog to back up is a great way to improve rear end awareness! It also opens the door for several other impressive tricks and exercises you can do with your dog! The key is to be patient and take the time your dog needs to back up straight!
Once he has the hang of backing up just a few steps we can combine walking backwards with the Bottoms Up exercise as shown in the video. We can walk the dog gently forward off the disk and then by carefully placing the treats nearer the disk we can teach him to walk backwards back on to the platform. This really gets that doggie brain thinking!
3. Pivoting on a balance disk or perch
Pivoting is one of my favourite exercises – we’re going to teach your dog to keep his front feet on the disk and pivot around with his hind feet.
Pivoting is beloved by obedience trainers as it helps the dog learn to turn very precisely.
In obedience competitions when you do a 180 degree turn you have to turn very precisely and walk exactly the same line back.
That aside, this is also a fantastic physical exercise for your dog. Not only does it improve hind and awareness it also strengthens the core and abductor and adductor muscles of the pelvic limbs and aids in the development of the small stabiliser muscles used when turning. Remember to teach this in both directions to ensure good balance and awareness both ways.
This is a really fun exercise for you and your dog, it's engaging, and it really gets him using his mind and thinking hard. Exercises like this really help develop your dogs ability to learn as you further your training together.
We're going to take three items we have already worked individual behaviours with, the cone (or other obstacle you used in Exercise 5.1 when teaching your dog to go around something), a mat/bed, and a balance disk (item used for Exercise 4.1).
You need a verbal cue for each behaviour.
If you haven’t already got a verbal cue for each behaviour (Go Around, Stand on the Disk, Goto Bed) then train your verbal cues first by saying the cue and then showing your dog your usual hand signal to him them to perform the behaviour. Practice this until your dog can do each individual behaviour with just the verbal cue.
Note: in part of the video I use ‘Paws’ rather than ‘Paws Up’ to demo how your dog might react the first time they do this exercise if they are a little confused.
The aim is to get your dog to really start thinking and using his mind to figure out which obstacle you’re asking him to perform.
Even a super clever dog will find this exercise really mentally tiring!