Saturday, October 3, 2015

Dog Parkour for Teeter Fears

There are probably quite a few of you out there that have done agility long enough to encounter the dreaded teeter monster of agility class lore. Some of your dogs may be convinced that it is a obstacle specifically designed to destroy their very being where others of you are anxiously awaiting that fateful day when your dog first encounters the teeter of doom.

Well, there is good news for you!

It is completely possible to use the skills you might learn in Dog Parkour to help your dog learn that the teeter isn’t a scary obstacle and could even be considered FUN! It takes just a few simple steps and once you have these well mastered, you should be well on your way to a fast, confident teeter performance.

The things that scare most dogs about the teeter is that it MOVES (gasp, that can’t be good! I’m going to fall to my doom!) and it makes NOISE (things that make noise have been scientifically proven to eat dogs, don’t you know??). We can use this knowledge to design a plan that teaches our dogs that things that move and make noise are good.

Are you ready for that? Good.

1) Teach your dog to stand on things. At this point they should be things that are solid and won’t move when he steps or jumps onto them. Good objects to look for are stairs, platforms, walls, loading docks, etc. Repeat until he is confidently jumping on everything you ask of him.

2) Gradually introduce objects that move. Start with things that move a VERY LITTLE bit and don’t make noise when they do so. This can be things like cardboard boxes, laundry baskets, etc. Be sure the object is appropriate for his size, and is safe. You can gradually increase the movement of these objects. Little kid toys with wheels seem to work very well (and you end up with some pretty cute tricks too!). Reinforce your dog everytime he gets onto one of these objects and it moves.

3) Teach your dog that making noise is a good thing. Teach your dog to knock over or touch objects that might make some noise. Good things for this are tarps, bags, mugs, water bottles etc. Remember to reinforce with delicious treats or a fun game every time he makes noise. Gradually find things that make more noise. We have found placing metal objects inside other metal objects makes the most racket.

4) Now combine the two skills. Find objects that both make noise AND move. Be creative here and try to find as many different objects as possible. The more things you find, the more comfortable your dog is going to be when introduced to a teeter. It will simply be one of those “weird things that move and bang around to give me cookies.”

5) Find teeter like objects. Be sure to find objects that move like a teeter. Placing a pool noodle under a board will do this, as well as finding a seesaw at your local playground.

6) Repeat this WHOLE process with a real teeter. Teach your dog to walk on a plank, then teach him to make it make noise, and to move it, then put the moving and the noise together at a low height. Gradually increase the height until you can show off how much your dog loves the full teeter to all of your very jealous friends. The more work you do in the previous steps, the faster this one will go, so do your homework!

This video will give you a brief introduction into the first few steps of training a teeter:

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Skill: Backing Up

Skill: Backing up

Benefits: Rear end awareness, increased range of motion, rear end strength, balance

Sports applications:  Rally Obedience exercise, rear end control,  increase strength for jumping in agility and flyball, useful in household situations

Safety: Keep in mind this exercise requires a lot of strength. Progress slowly.

How to train it!:
Shape it: Click and treat for any movement backwards. Specifically look at the back feet, watch for the tiniest indication of movement. Be patient!
Lure it: Hold the treat at the dogs nose level very close to his nose. Gradually back the treat towards the nose until the dog moves one foot backwards (this will often be a back foot). Give a treat as soon as the foot moves. Gradually require more feet to move before giving a treat. If your dog sits, it likely means that you have held the treat too high.

Variations: Start with your dog backing up on the ground. Practice  with the dog at both sides as well as with the dog in front of you. When your dog is confident with all of these variations add items to back up onto. Start low, and gradually increase the height of the object. Include both solid objects and objects that move slightly. Possible variations of backing up include:
  • Onto:
    • Mat
    • Books
    • Cardboard boxes
    • Fit discs
    • Steps
    • Laundry baskets
    • Fitness Peanuts
  • Over ladder flat on ground
  • Between cones
  • Around cones

Backing Up Video

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Make Your Dog's Workouts Fun!

It is important for active dogs to have the strength to compete in the activities they love without getting hurt. However, most people (and dogs) find exercises that accomplish these goals to be extremely boring. They don’t have to be! Here are five ways to make your dogs strength building exercises fun for both of you!

Get Creative
Do you find a particular exercise extremely boring? Figure out what the exercise is trying to accomplish and find a more creative way to accomplish the same thing. For example, we find passive range of motion exercises to be about as exciting as watching paint dry, but range of motion is important. One of our alternative solutions for many dogs is to teach them to put 4 feet in a box. This requires them to pick up their legs and still results in their legs going through the appropriate range of motion, but is way more fun for all of us!

Train with a group
Everything is more fun with a group! Find friends to train with, or attend a class. Not only are you and your dog going to have more fun, you are also much more likely to consistently get your dog the exercise he needs.

Switch up exercises
Repeating the same exercise week after week can get really boring very quickly. Luckily different exercises can help accomplish the same goals. For example, hat box sits combined with backing up on an objects results in rear end strength gains, and improved proprioception. Very similar gains can be seen with 4 feet in a box combined with sits to stands with front feet on an object. Combining different sets of exercises not only keeps things fun, but also increases the benefits you will see in strength gains since the muscles are used in slightly different ways.

Add challenges to a known exercise
Once your dog knows an exercise change it up! This will not only keep things fun, but it will result in a stronger dog. For example backing up is a great way to improve rear end strength. Once your dog can back up, teach him to back up onto a 2-3 inch tall object. But don’t stop there! As he gets comfortable with this object switch it up and see what he can back up onto. Can your dog backup onto an elbow height box, a fitness pod, a peanut, the couch, the stairs? What else can you think of to teach your dog to back up onto? Progress slowly and keep safety in mind, but add challenges to keep things fun!

Play to your dogs strengths
Find ways to make exercises that you and your dog find exciting! If your dog loves to put his feet on things, take advantage of that. Your dog might find sits to stands with paws on an elbow height object way more fun than sits to stands on a peanut. Make sure that you still add variety to your exercises, but consider what your dog enjoys and what he’s good at.

These same ideas apply to people too!

So get out, have fun, and increase your dog’s fitness so you can have more fun adventures together!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Skill: 4 Feet In an Object

Skill: 4 Feet in an object
Benefits:  Increased proprioception, increased balance, increased range of motion
Sports applications: Obedience-directed jumping/retrieves, Agility-body awareness
Safety: This is a fairly safe exercise, but be sure to check the edges and bottom of the object to be sure they won’t scrape, cut, or otherwise injure your dog.
How to train: Start with a large object that has sides just tall enough that your dog has to step over them to get into the object. Reinforce for any interaction with the object including things such as head into box, one foot in, or pawing at it. Gradually increase your criteria until your dog is getting all four feet in the object without hesitation. You can now increase the difficulty by decreasing the size of the object or increasing the height of the sides.
Advanced Version: Send your dog to specific objects from a distance. This is a great way to practice directing your dog to a specific location.
Find objects that move. This can be things with wheels or something that tips when the dog gets into it. This is a great foundation for teeter work.

Practice obedience exercises in the objects such as sit, down, stand or spin.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Skill: 4 Feet On

Skill: Jumping on Objects: Dog jumps on walls, logs, rocks, benches, posts
Benefits: Increased muscular strength and proprioception,  increased confidence, increased ability to work with distractions
Other sports applications:  Agility- Table, Jumping, A-frame; Obedience-directed jumping, sit, down, stand; Flyball-jumping, box turns; Barn Hunt-Straw bale climb.
How to train: Find a low sturdy object. Mid forearm to elbow height is a good starting point, it is tall enough that the dogs see it as an obstacle, but not so tall that it is intimidating. Reward any paw interaction, shape the behavior until your dog will put all four paws on the object. Don’t worry about your dog jumping at first, as the object gets taller and you approach it with more speed, your dog will make the transition from walking onto the object to jumping onto it.  Gradually increase the height of the object, while always working within the comfort level of your dog.  As always, work with your dog with a variety of objects.
Safety: Always spot your dog, be ready to catch him or provide assistance if needed. Let your dog choose to perform the behavior, and then reward. Lift your dog down from the wall or find an alternative route down if jumping above dog’s shoulder height.
Advanced Version: Train your dog to jump onto small diameter objects! These require quite a bit of precision and will take time. Make sure to start low and spot your dog. Also, be sure it is of a diameter that your dog can balance on when not jumping to it!
Send your dog to jump onto specific objects. Practice left and right.

Practice obedience exercises on the object: sit, down, spin, stand.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Dog Parkour Benefits

 Here are some benefits we have seen of dog parkour, with cute pictures of course.

Physically and Mentally Demanding
Sports Foundation

Increased Coordination

Increased Focus

Increased confidence

Increased Strength

Adjustable for dogs of all ages

Improvement of Behavior Problems

Improvement of Obedience Skills

Individually tailored

Increased Problem Solving Skills

Friday, June 12, 2015

Dog Parkour: What is it and why should we join class?

What is dog parkour (Urban agility)?

Parkour is a physical discipline in which individuals move through their environment and conquer obstacles in their path. It includes climbing, balancing, jumping, running, vaulting, creativity and working past fear. So what is dog parkour? Dog parkour, sometimes known as urban agility, is an activity based on the same principles. It is a challenging but fun physical activity in which the dogs learn to interact with their environment. Just like in the human version, in dog parkour class we work on ways to conquer obstacles, such as climbing, balancing, and jumping.

What do we do?
This class is always different! We meet at different parks every week and focus on different skills depending on the setup of the park.  Skills learned may include balancing on logs, walls, rocks, or benches, jumping over objects, standing or placing two paws on objects that move,  going under, around or climbing on objects. What we do varies each week and is tailored to the needs of the individual dogs in the class.
What dogs and handlers this class best suitable for?

Dogs should have basic obedience skills such as sit, down, walking on leash and something resembling a recall.  Taking at least one basic obedience class before coming to dog parkour is highly recommended. Keep in mind classes are held in a park setting, so there may be other dogs, running children, bikes or other distractions present. This is a great opportunity to work with distractions around, but the environment may be too over stimulating for some dogs.  

Dogs should be in good health and able to perform simple physical skills such as climbing stairs and going on ½ - 1 mile walks. Class is tailored to each dog, so old dogs, young dogs, and dogs with physical limitations are welcome to come play too!

Class moves around a lot, so handlers will need to be able to walk ½ - 1 mile. Some bending and kneeling may be needed in order to teach your dog specific skills (Handlers we can tailor class to your physical needs too! And don’t worry you don’t have to do parkour in this class).

Why will my dog benefit?
You and your dog will have the opportunity to work as a team and have fun in a new and sometimes difficult environment. Interacting with the environment will increase your dog’s confidence, ability to problem solve, and ability to work with distractions present. This class is a great foundation for agility or other dogs sports and is also an excellent way to work on things such as teeter fears outside of agility class. It can be a physically and mentally demanding activity, so is excellent for conditioning (and wearing out!) your dog. It is also a  fun activity to do with your dog without the pressure that comes with some competitive sports.

Who teaches it?

Karin Coyne and Abigail Curtis DVM teach dog parkour. They are the founders of Adventure Unleashed, and the Ohio Teen Dog Experience, an overnight camp for teens and their dogs. In addition to running dog camp and teaching for nine years they have also both been training for parkour for 4 years, giving them what they like to call “parkour vision,” seeing creative ways to use their environment that they didn’t realize before being introduced to parkour!