title. Fitness Programs for Dogs, part 2
about. Jambo and Canine Conditioning
I’ll go ahead and give you the bottom line right here : the last few months of playing with the FitPaws equipment while increasing Jambo's strength has been FUN. Jambo is not the only beneficiary of this training, either - I’ve seen all 3 of my dogs move quickly from not being totally sold on getting on the ball to an obvious “Oh Goody!” reaction when it’s time to play these games. My bathroom looks like a carnival funhouse what with all the inflatables in my tub, but I don’t care. We are all as motivated to work as the day we started!
Jambo and I are taking an online course at Agility U, too. Our coach there, Barbara Currier, recommends using FitPaws equipment to get performance dog puppies started. She says, “All dogs need to learn how to balance on shifting surfaces and touch different textures. This is great preparation for all of the different surfaces and textures they will encounter, as well as a terrific teeter foundation. Also, it is useful for strengthening growing pups!”
Jambo and I love following up on our weekly visits with Jeris Pugh over at Martial Arfs, and I can see her stamina and core strength developing nicely. Each week, we work through different configurations of the FitPaws equipment. Looking back through my notes from these sessions, I don’t believe we’ve repeated any one of these configurations.
Here’s Jambo working with Jeris on the first exercise we did this week. Now that Jambo is confidently hopping up on the Donut, Peanut, and everything else, we are challenging her a little more. One simple way to do this with the exercises we’re familiar with is to increase the distance between those objects. My little dog’s confidence had to be solid as it was clear in this session that having to stretch a little more was not easy!
In the image above, you can see that the 3 FitDiscs are inflated to different degrees. When Jambo has to work harder to stabilize her front end on an overinflated disc, she shifts her weight back to help herself balance.
There are quite a few points of interest to look at in this image. Since our goal is to increase strength in Jambo’s back end, we’re looking to align her back feet. I’ve learned to help Jambo with this not only through manipulation of the treat up front, but also by gently rolling the Peanut back and forth. Raising the cookie also helps Jambo to engage her rear - then, when her spine is straight, we encourage a stretch up. (If her head is down, her back end won’t be engaged.) I have learned to watch Jambo’s back - when her spine curved during the exercise, it meant that she wasn’t getting the benefits from the position. Asking a dog to straighten out in this position requires strength from the dog. Jambo can do it sometimes, and sometimes she isn’t quite there (as can be seen above.)
“Focus on what you want, not on what you do not want.”
One thing that Jeris wants to see changed in the world of dog physical therapy is “an attitude shift from fixing things when they go wrong to being proactive with conditioning. Canine conditioning is still very heavily influenced by rehab. It’d be preferable to see the field be able to move away from the mindset of “restoring function” to “maximizing function.” In designing my own dog’s fitness program, I needed to start with the “restoring function” segment of that. I feel confident that with regular check ins with the Martial Arfs team and her chiropractor, that she’ll continue to play with me at the 100% level that we BOTH love!
Misa Martin is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer. Years of attending agility seminars, workshops, seminars and camps with her first dog led to the beginning of her professional dog training career as a PetSmart Trainer in 2008. In addition to teaching PCOTC's Agility programs, Misa is a staff trainer at the Mount Vernon Humane Society, active with Waggytail Rescue as a consultant for training and behavior issues. Misa owns HappyValleyDogs.com, providing reward based training to private clients. Through her knowledge, experience, and sense of humor, Misa encourages students to approach dog training as a team effort, where students learn as much from their dogs as dogs learn from their "parents," making training fun for humans and dogs alike!
Misa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org