Wednesday, December 25, 2013

How To Fully Exercise Your Dog Part 2

Ok, so I was doing great posting consistently every week, then the holidays hit. As of today I think it's starting to wind down, so I'll be more consistent again. Please don't hate me too much for being a slacker.
At least my excuse for the delay in posting is pretty awesome- I was making matching pajamas for all my nieces & nephews and siblings for Christmas. 18 pairs. 
That is all.
A couple weeks ago we discussed the importance of providing both physical and mental exercise for your dog, especially in the winter when nobody wants to be outside. You can refer back to that for more on why, but suffice it to say that your dog needs mental and physical stimulation on a daily basis to stay happy and healthy. And to not drive you nuts.
Today, we discuss my favorite indoor games for you and your dog. Most of them provide a combination of mental and physical stimulation, so they are great for fully exercising and they are FUN for both of you. I've referenced these when I can, others are from clients, friends and family- but I'm pretty sure that none of them are truly my original idea. I'm not trying to get credit for these- just trying to share them. If you think you came up with this idea first- awesome! I hope you don't mind me sharing it with other doggie parents :)
As with all exercise, please consult you veterinarian and maybe your breeder for advice on exercise for your specific dog.

Stairway Fetch
It's literally as simple as it sounds. And as long as you don't mind a little extra wear and tear on your stairs, it can be kept up all winter long. Toss a ball (or other fun favorite toy that won't dent your walls when it bounces) up the stairs and let your dog fetch it and bring it back down the stairs for you to fetch it again. Guess what, this game can be played the other way too- you can toss the ball down the stairs and have your dog run up and down. This is a great cardiovascular workout, and if you have get good, you can get the ball into an upstairs room and your dog has get a bonus game of hide & seek. 

Hide & Seek
Holy cow, dog LOVE this game. It's easy, provides mental and physical stimulation and works on their recall and builds your bond with your dog AND it's fun! Sneak away from your dog when she isn't paying attention and hide behind a piece of furniture, a large appliance, behind the shower curtain and call her to you. Sound happy and excited and get more so as you hear your dog coming to you. When she gets to you, give lots of praise and petting and a treat if you have it... Then do it again! This is a great game for kids too- get the whole family involved!

Find It: 
The first stage of this game should be set up with you and your dog in a room, and you "hide" a piece of treat or favorite toy. Point to the hidden goodie and say "find it", encouraging her to get the treat. As your dog improves, try hiding multiple goodies while your dog is in a stay or wait position in the room with you. As she gets the hang of this, have her wait in another room as you hide the goodies, then bring her into the room and say "find it". The first time or two, you may need to point out some of the goodies, though try not to point them all out or she may become dependent on you to do so. The goal is for her to entertain herself for a bit as she hunts for goodies. Try this in different rooms, with different goodies, and with different people hiding different goodies- this gives her more fun stuff to smell!

Shaping Basics:
Shaping is used in dog training all the time, and it's super easy to start training.
You'll need a dog (preferably your own or at least one you have permission to be working with, otherwise, volunteer at a shelter and use this to make a dog more adoptable), some treats and probably a leash so the dog doesn't wander away.
Here are the instructions, straight from my Puppy Kindergarten curriculum:

Start with your dog sitting or standing and hold your hand, palm open, in front of your dog's nose (3-5 inches away) with your fingers pointed toward the wall.


Seriously, don't move your hand and don't say anything.

Your dog WILL move to touch your hand with their nose.

As soon as they do, say “touch” and give them the treat and provide praise. (If you're using a clicker, now's a great time to use it- click as soon as he touches your hand.

Do this 25 more times or so.  

As your dog gets better with this, try putting your hand in different positions.

Mistakes your dog may make:

Approaching your hand with an open mouth:

Move your hand away, saying “oops”, then offer your hand again

 Dog shies away from your hand:

Reward any movement towards your hand. As your dog gets better, wait until they touch your hand, even if it's brief. 
 As your dog improves, try having him touch other things- the wall, your foot, a beach ball or exercise ball (NOT a medicine ball, they are way too heavy!) There is an entire sport where dogs herd those exercise balls, it's really fun to teach and I'll talk about it more in a later post, but feel free to search the interwebs yourself in the meantime (like you weren't going to anyway!). It's called Treibball.

These are just my favorites, I'll share more with you over time, I promise.

And I'll stop being such a slacker, really. 
Happy Holidays, people and pups!

References: Play Together, Stay Together-Happy and Healthy Play Between People and Dogs, By Patricia McConnell and Karen B. London
Credit also goes to clients and other trainers who have shared their tips and tricks with me

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

How to Fully Exercise Your Dog

Have you ever noticed how many of your neighborhood dogs seem to hibernate during the winter? Their owners hibernate too. In the spring, they emerge from their home, the dog running and jumping at the end of the leash; the owner panting and trying to keep up.  No doubt, both have put on a few extra holiday pounds.
I'm not here to berate anyone for avoiding the cold, I can't stand cold.  In fact, the only reasons I'll typically go out in the cold are to take the dog out, to go for a run or to build a snowman. That is why I had to come up with ways to exercise my own dog during the cold, long winters in upstate New York. Next week, I'll have a run-down of my favorite winter doggie games, so stay tuned!
First, lets talk about the types of exercise your dog needs. I'm not talking about weight training vs. cardio (though I try to include some of each in my games below). See, dogs need both physical and mental exercise to keep them happy and healthy. Mental exercise for dogs? Am I completely crazy? Are you supposed to get a tutor for your dog?!
No, silly. YOU will be your dog's tutor, training partner and workout buddy.
Actually, you should already be those things for your dog. He deserves it.
Before we get into what, lets find out WHY dogs need these things.
We all know that physical exercise has many health benefits- healthier weight, decreased incidence of heart disease and arthritis, as well as fewer injuries such as ACL tear. For more on this, please consult your veterinarian and listen to their advice. You have probably noticed that if your dog gets a good long walk or a game of frisbee in, he is a little more calm once you get back inside the house. If you have a dog who is of the terrier line or any kind of sporting dog, it may take something more like a 5 mile run or hike in addition to a daily walk to expend energy. Sometimes, even two runs a day or a 5 hour hike isn't enough. What is a loving dog owner to do? There is only so much time in the day! At this point, your dog has likely expended enough physical energy, and is in need of some mental exercise if either of you is to sleep anytime soon.
It's interesting, 30 years ago it was unheard of to need to exercise your dog either physically or mentally. Wanna guess why?
You got it.
Dogs used to work.
I'm not talking about hard labor or anything, just the fact that most dogs had a purpose back in the day. It may have been guarding the house, herding the livestock, babysitting the kids, or helping to catch dinner. They got up in the morning, ate breakfast (or went out to hunt their own), went to work, and came back for dinner (or found their own) and a warm place to sleep. Don't get me wrong, life is much better for dogs in many ways than it was 30+ years ago. They live longer, most get to have a cushy bed (or three, in Roxie's case), and don't have to brave the elements except to go potty- it's a pretty awesome deal, except for one little detail
Have you ever gone to bed, gotten yourself all tucked in snug and cozy, only to lay there staring at the ceiling for 3 hours? You know how your dog decides it's time to run a Nascar style race around your living room around 9:15 some nights? SAME. FREAKIN'. THING.
As you pick up the pieces of your mind that just got blown across the room, think about your poor pup. He's trying to be a good boy, he was great on the walk, didn't chase the cat, didn't beg at the table at dinner; he just needs to run around a little. Is that so wrong?! When it involves tearing around your living room as your family is just settling down for some quality time, it's a little annoying. What your dog needs just as much as physical exercise is this mental exercise I keep talking about.
Now, what you really want to know: How do you provide mental exercise for your dog? It's easy. No, really, it is. There are many ways to get your dog adequate mental exercise:

-Practice obedience cues (sit, down, stay, heel, etc)
-Practice agility skills (jumps, wave poles, hold position, chutes, tunnels, etc)
-Play games (hide & seek, fetch, treat hunt, and soooooo many more)

I'll explain these games and more next week, but lets go back to why your dog needs this type of exercise. Remember a few paragraphs ago, when I went off on a tangent about how dogs used to have jobs? This is where that becomes important again. Those jobs that dogs used to have? They have actually been bred for these jobs over many generations. They have been bred to guard a flock, herd, or home, hunt with their people for dinner, or move a flock or herd... just a few canine trades. More on that later. So, if these dogs have been bred for years to do these jobs, is it any wonder they go a little nuts when they don't get this exercise.
My favorite example is a border collie- they have been bred to solve puzzles (moving a flock of sheep around in a field, into and out of pens). Now, if he can move a flock of sheep, why wouldn't he try to solve the puzzle of how you get those tasty treats out of the cabinet?
Do your dog a favor, and think about how much or how little mental exercise they are getting and think about how you can change that. He'll really appreciate it. I promise.
Be sure to check back next week to get the games all spelled out for you!

References: Play Together, Stay Together-Happy and Healthy Play Between People and Dogs, By Patricia McConnell and Karen B. London