10. Shaping

Exercise 10.4 - Five Minute Shaping: Obstacle Challenge

This shaping exercise is an example of a proprioceptive exercise.


Say what?  Proprioceptive is a term that relates to the stimuli that are produced and perceived within an organism, especially those connected with the position and movement of the body.


The term is very familiar to folks who engage in competitive dog sports, both obedience and agility. 


We’ve mentioned before that dogs in general have quite a poor awareness of where their back feet are and proprioceptive exercises are often used to increase hind-end awareness so that not only can the dogs perform the sport specific exercises properly but also stay safe and protected from injury.


This type of exercise is also great for all dogs since it offers a different experience to habitual patterns of movement and behaviour. 


In addition to getting the doggie brain cells working, proprioceptive exercises can also be very helpful to:

  • Build a change from reflexive behaviours to more considered actions
  • Increase focus and flexibility
  • Enhance limb awareness and sensory integration
  • Develop and maintain balance when static or moving
  • Encourage self control

So…self control, coordination, balance, focus and flexibility not to mention building trust with the handler, learning to walk nicely in a narrow space and increased self confidence – that’s a lot of bang for your buck!


The obstacle I’m using for Ash in the video is just an example of something where he is required to consider carefully where he puts all four feet and I’ve made it a bit more challenging for him by raising one end.


While we’re on the subject and especially if you’re interested in dog agility training – low ladder drills and cavaletti poles are super conditioning and warm-up exercises, especially before agility jumping drills (remember your dog has to be over 1 year old for this). 


Cavaletti work is super beneficial since it allows the dog to obtain more flexion (bending) of his wrists, elbows, ankles and knees. It’s important to note that there is no increase in extension of the joints when working on cavaletti so it’s a lovely low impact exercise.



Working over cavaletti can enhance the regularity and rhythm of distinguished paces, loosen up and strengthen the muscles, contribute to the development of the heart and circulatory systems, and increase balance & suspension.  By slowly increasing the amount of repetitions over time, you can subsequently increase the dogs cardiac output which will help them warm-up more efficiently and effectively before explosive amounts of exercise.


It truly is a wonderful all-around gymnastics exercise for our four-legged athletes.