Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Performance Dog Conditioning Class: Session 2

On Monday, Maisy and I went to the second of three sessions of our performance dog conditioning class. We got a new set of exercises this week. Since some of these exercises build on last session’s exercises, check out those exercises before you try these!

Sideline Sit-Ups. This is the same as we did before- same methodology, and same repetitions.

Stairs. Also the same as before.

Down to Stand. This exercise builds on the muscles we developed in the sit to stand and diagonal leg lifts exercises from last session. It works the rear, shoulders and core, so it’s a great overall exercise! To do it, put your dog in a sphinx down. Then, grasp one of your dog’s front paws and lure the dog forward to a standing position. The dog shouldn’t sit first. Then repeat, holding the other front paw. This exercise should be done daily, 10-15 reps per leg.

Active Shoulder Stretches. Since active stretches (ones your dog does) is always better than passive ones (ones you perform for your dog), this exercise helps teach your dog to stretch his shoulders. It’s useful for strengthening the shoulders, and makes an excellent warm-up exercise. It will specifically improve your dog’s performance with weaving. To do it, put your dog in a sit, and ask your dog to shake. Shape your dog to do a full outward extension of the paw by moving your hand further and further away so she has to reach further in order to touch your hand with her paw. You should do this exercise daily, 15-20 reps per leg.

Spins. Instead of simply having the dog spin in a circle, like we did previously, we’re going to add in more drive and lateral movement. This will help build the core and front end. To do it, put your dog in a sit and toss a treat or toy behind your dog about 6-8 feet. You’ll need to toss the toy so that your dog will turn to the left on one rep, and to right on the next. The dog will chase after the toy, which will extend the shoulder when he turns and pushes off, and since she will be driving off with more force, it will build strength. Do this daily, 10 reps in each direction.

Beg to Stand and Back. There’s actually three exercises here, and you need to progress at the dog’s ability level, since we are building core strength and balance.

The first step is to lure the dog into a begging position where she is rocked back on her haunches, not standing on the hind legs. A dog who goes straight up on the hind legs is using her front end, not her core or hind. The dog should hold the begging position for about 3-5 seconds (basically, however long it takes the dog to become balanced). Do this daily, 8-10 reps of 3-5 seconds each.

The next step builds on the first. Once the dog can get into a begging position, lure the dog from the beg to standing on her back legs. This requires core strength, balance and hind end strength. As such, it increases the intensity, and once you progress to this level, you should do only 6-8 reps, every other day.

Finally, once your dog is doing well with the second step, you’ll lure the dog from the beg, to the standing position, and back down into a sit, all while remaining vertical! This is very difficult for the dog, and you do not want to rush this. Again, it’s an every other day exercise, of 6-8 reps only.

As a side note, Maisy was quite good at going into a begging position and holding it. In fact, the instructor was quite surprised that Maisy could do it at all, since long-backed dogs typically lack the core strength necessary to do it.

Wheelbarrowing. As the name implies, this exercise requires you to lift your dog’s back feet off the ground and then encourage her to “walk” with the front feet only. The easiest way to do this is by setting out a line of treats, approximately one foot apart. Doing this exercise is really good for the shoulders and scapula, and will improve your dog’s ability to do downhill work (like the A-frame, teeter, etc.). However, it is vital you do it correctly, because failure to do so will invert the back and cause injury. Because of this, I think I might pass on doing this exercise; I'm terrified of back injuries! Anyway, you should be grasping under the dog’s body, near the groin, and just barely lift the back feet off the ground- an inch or two at most. You will either need to bend over, or with the shorties, you can use a towel instead. This is a high intensity exercise, and should be done every other day. Do 3-5 reps of 5-6 feet each.

I think her back feet are too far off the ground in this picture, but hopefully it gives you an idea of what the exercise looks like.

We also discussed the use of cavaletti, which is a series of slightly elevated poles. They are not officially a part of the program, but Lin said they are good exercise as they help develop flexion, extension and balance. Even better, you can adjust your dog’s stride length by using them, which can help teach better jumping skills. Cavaletti is a core rehab exercise for injured dogs, so if your dog knows how to do them in advance, rehab will be much easier.

To do cavaletti properly, the dog should walk over the bars, not jump. Eventually you can progress to trotting over them, but that tempts the dog to jump, so start at a walk. You should set them up so that they are approximately half the dog’s body length apart. The closer together they are, the harder they are. They should be about hock-high off the ground; high enough that the dog needs to work a bit, but not so high that the dog is tempted to jump. You should always do a group with a minimum of 6 bars. This exercise should be done 2-3 times a week, with 36-40 bars (so, six reps of six bars) each time.

I’m looking forward to working on all these exercises with Maisy. There’s only one more week left, and at that session we’ll get our maintenance exercises. It does take a bit of time, but a little bit of prevention will hopefully go a long way in preventing injuries!


Elephant said...

It seems like some of the exercises involve a lot of luring. Could you set them up via shaping instead?

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

Thanks for sharing! The down-stand and wheelbarrow exercises look fun and I'll have to try them. I love doing "squats" with the dogs and Lance seems to actually enjoy it too!

Crystal said...

Brian, I suppose I could, but that would take awhile to do, which means it would take longer to get some of the benefits. Although I generally prefer shaping new behaviors to luring, there are times when luring simply makes sense.

Laura- how do you do squats with the dogs?

Lauren said...

I don't know all that much about dog conditioning, so these posts are definitely a wealth of new information for me.

And you definitely need to keep up the picture taking, Maizy is absolutely adorable!

Crystal said...

Thanks, Lauren. I'm rather partial to the cuteness that is Maisy myself, but... well, she's mine, lol. I am liking the addition of pictures, though, so I'm trying to do that more.

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