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      News — Conditioning

      Keep your dog and yourself in shape this winter with these easy exercises

      Previously posted by Kathryn Durno on 4knines blog

       

      How to stay fit in the winter time… a few easy exercises for you and your dog!

      Keeping your dog fit this winter

       

      Let’s face it, when it is dark, cold and wet outside you don’t want to go out and play. But your dog? He’s ready for adventure and has energy to burn, so there has to be a happy medium, right?

      During the winter months it is hard to get in the same level of physical activity for your dog, which can lead to weight gain or worse yet destructive behavior. Here are a few fast and easy games to play with your dog to burn off some mental and physical energy when it is too cold to play outside.

      I use my dog’s regular morning and evening kibble to do their training exercises. We follow that principal that they have to “work for their food” at both meals. This takes a little more time and effort on your part beyond just setting the food bowl down in front of your dog. Once you both get used to this routine (it takes a few days!) you will both enjoy this time together and you will be amazed how quickly your dog will learn some new behaviors.

      You will need to find something to serve as a platform for your dog to step up on. If you want to go out and buy something there are several brands of canine fitness equipment out there. Or you could just go to the yoga section of your local sporting goods store and get a small inflatable balance disc. They are about 12 – 15 inches in diameter and you can use it too! You can also just use something around the house that is an easy step up for your dog. For a small dog just 1-2 inches, medium size dogs about 4-5 inches and a large dog about 6-8 inches. This could be a large book, a wood block, a box etc.

      Clicker: I am also a clicker trainer and find this is the easiest way to teach a new behavior. Once your dog understands that the Clicker means Yes! You did it! You will be able to quickly train them new behaviors with your clicker.

      Exercises:

       

      Step Up

      You want to teach your dog to step up onto a platform with both front paws. You are teaching front end awareness and working on their core – especially if you are using a balance disc. Just a few reps of step up onto their platform. Mix it up with asking for alternating paws once they get up there or a high 5. Remember to reward at every step up and paw touch.

      Put Your Rear On

      This is just like Step Up, but instead of putting their two front paws on, you are asking for their two rear paws, front feet on the floor. This one is a real challenge for some dogs. This teaches rear end awareness and rear strength. Often as our dogs get older, they lose their hind end strength. Start now and work on this rear end awareness and strength! You may need to help your dog by placing their rear paws on your platform item, then clicking and treating until they understand. This is a hard one but so worth it in the long run if you can teach this. You can also mix this up with asking for a front paw or high 5 once they master it.

      Pivot

      This really two exercises. Try it first with both front paws on the platform, then once your dog gets really good, rear paws on the platform.

      Front paws on, ask your dog to pivot, by moving around the clock. You will need to start with one step at a time. Keeping their front paws in place, moving both back legs around. Lots of rewards, and move around with your dog, and they will “get it” so that they can eventually end up making a full 360 degree pivot around their platform with their rear legs. Make sure they don’t step off the platform with their front paws.

      Once your dog masters this… it is time to try it with their rear on, moving their front legs around “the clock”. This one is really tough and a big challenge for your dog. Keep those rewards coming for even the first step!

      We always use this time to practice our “Push-Ups” (Sit, Down, Stand) and Sit Pretty (Up on haunches in the “Beg” position) repetitions to build out rear and core strength.

      Dogs love to work – especially for food. So take advantage of it and take the time to give them a mental and physical workout twice day… your dog thanks you!

      Can your dog do this?

      Seeing is believing...Do you need special equipment to get your dog in shape?  No...but it is really fun and can take your dog's fitness to the next level.  Here is  Biddy doing the same exercises we talked about in the last post, but up on her peanut.  The uneven surface gives her an incredible work out and she learns how to focus and balance.  Much the same way a human would use a balance disc or a bosu. So what you can see is as she starts to tire she doesn't fully get back into a stand or she sits down.  Here back legs are getting tired and she is working hard on those core muscles.  You can't really see it, but as she fatigues she will start to shake a little.  Keep in mind...this isn't her first day on this so she has worked up to this level.  My biggest fear ever for my dogs is that as they age they will "get down in the rear" or get injured competing in sports.  Having a strong rear and core is so important for your dog...especially as they get older. There are lots of good instructional videos out there if you decide to get fitness equipment for your dog.  The key is to remember to take it slow...it is just like a human, if you go all out at the gym for the first time in months, you won't want to go back very often!  Most of the equipment you buy will come with an instructional DVD - use it!!!  It will show you how to properly use the equipment and work your dog up to regular use and more challenging exercises. As you can tell from the video - my husband isn't too thrilled about making the video...but there is a line of dogs on the other side of the door anxiously waiting for their turn on the peanut!!!   [embed]https://youtu.be/4gd0mCm1fF8[/embed]

      Fido Fitness - It all starts with core strength

      It all starts with core strength.  Just like humans, dogs need to have a strong core.  Does your dog look good but not great?  Is your dog at the right weight, but just doesn't look fit?   Take a good look at your dog as he moves around the ring or around the yard.  Do you see a shift or roll on his back?  If you notice any of these things, your dog needs to strengthen his core.  

      Here are three easy exercises you can do in just a few minuets, without special equipment, to improve your dogs core strength.  In addition to improved appearance and performance, a strong core will reduce the risk of injury, improve gait and will literally carry your dog in their senior years. Here are three quick and easy exercises you can do with your dog on a daily basis that will improve core strength.  No special equipment is needed and you can run your dog through these in just a few minutes time.  I take my three dogs through them while I drink my coffee each morning.

      • Sit to Stand reps.  This is an easy one, since most dogs already know how to sit.  Ask your dog to Sit, then Stand, Sit then Stand.  I have worked my dogs up to 3 sets of 10 repetitions each.  The pace is about 1 second between Sit and Stand, then a little break before I start the next set.  Make sure your dog is moving to the standing position using their rear, not their front.  If needed, back your  dog's rear into a corner or wall to ensure proper form.  This is harder than you think for your dog.  Start slowly with just a few repetitions and build up over a period of a few weeks.  This is the equivalent of you going to the gym for the first time in months and lifting a lot of weights.  The next day is not a good one...your dog will experience the same thing, so go slowly and make this fun.
      • Sit to Down reps.  Otherwise known as "puppy push-ups".  Put your dog in a Sit, then ask for a Down, then back up into a Sit.  Work your dog up to 3 sets of 10 with about 1 second between the Sit and the Down.  Remember, go slow and gradually increase the number of repetitions that you do.
      • Sit, sit pretty, stand and sit.  This is the hardest but probably the most beneficial of the exercises.  Put your dog in a Sit, the raise up to a what I call a "Sit Pretty" (or the begging dog pose!), then all the way up to standing on two hind legs, then back down to a sit.  Start with your dog in a Sit and just try to move him up to a sit pretty position, the classic standing on haunches with front paws at his chest. For some dogs this is a very natural position that they perform nightly right around dinner time!  But for a lot of dogs this can be very challenging.  Use treats and help your dog up into a sit pretty.  Support him with one hand on his collar and your forearm under his front paws.   Just work and practice up to this position until your dog has mastered it.  A few times each morning for about a week or so and your dog will be comfortable going to this point.  Next add the all the way up on hind legs command and back down.  Once your dog has mastered the positions you can gradually add more repetitions.

      TIPS   Use a clicker when you first start if your dog is not solid on the commands.  Marking the correct position and behavior makes it very clear to your dog what you are asking him to do. If your dog isn't solid on the commands Sit, Stand, Down or Sit Pretty (some people use "up") use a treat at their nose to lure them into the correct position along with a clicker.  For Sit, hold the treat over your dog's nose and move backwards, ultimately, their rear will hit the floor - it is at that exact moment that you click, then offer your reward.  I use both hand signals and the voice commands with my dogs.  If you are just starting, sometimes just the hand signal and lure with the click is best. 

      Once they understand the behavior, then you can add naming the behavior.  Ultimately, they will understand both and using hand signals or voice commands will be interchangeable.  Once they have mastered the commands try one day just using hand signals, the next voice commands...you will be amazed how smart your dog is and how willing they are to work!! What is your dog's favorite reward?  For some dogs it is treats, for others toys or tugging.  Mix it up and find out what your dog likes! Feed a portion of your dogs morning meal as training "treats"  or use healthy, nutritious treats when practicing these exercises.  This becomes a fun game for your dog and you aren't adding extra calories or junk food. Keep it fun!  My dogs LOVE this one on one time and they LOVE to work!   A version of this article was previously posted on Dog Mamma's

      Switching Gears...gotta keep moving!

      So now what?! What do we do next?! That is the typical attitude that I get from my dogs...they are high energy sporting dogs...so while they enjoy a little R & R, like a lot of dogs, they are always up for something new and fun. So the next thing for Biddy and Tristan is to begin working on their field and hunt titles. It is late in the season for us down here, starting to get quite warm, so we will really be limited to practice and training at this point...which is much needed for all of us...especially me, and a lot of fun for the dogs. Last weekend I took Biddy and Tristan to our first AKC Hunt Test. This is the place to start for beginners in the world of field trials and hunt test. Brittanys are a pointing breed, as opposed to a retrieving or flushing breed. So the ultimate goal is to have your dog 1) find the birds 2) go up on point...to indicate to the hunter that is where the bird is at, 3) stay steady while the hunter flushes the bird out 4) stay steady while the bird takes flight and the hunter shoots...and the 4) depending on your level, bring the downed bird back to you without mangling it all up. [

      Bird dogs hung test photo

        The Brittany is the smallest if the pointing breeds and was really bred to be a gentleman's (or woman's!) walking gun dog. The are not a long ranging dog - like say a Pointer or Setter, but meant to work closely beside the walking hunter, pointing upland birds. For us in the South, it is all quail. For other areas of the country it can include woodcock, grouse, pheasant, Huns. Just so you know..at the hunt test are firing blanks, but when we practice, we take birds in season to our limits...and we do eat them....quail cooks up like a small Cornish hen and is quite delicious! So..the first goal for us is our Junior Hunt title. For pointing breeds the dogs run with a brace mate but the are scored individually. Each dog is given a score between 1-10, and an average score of 7 will earn you a qualifying leg. To receive your JH title you need 4 qualifying legs. A typical event is run on Saturday and Sunday, so each dog entered has the opportunity to earn up to 2 qualifying legs over a weekend. Christmas tree dogs holidays They are given scores in the following areas: hunting, bird finding, pointing and trainability. There is a Senior Hunter and Master Hunter title also, where more skills are added and the level of difficulty is much higher. One if my favorite blogs is 2 brown dawgs They do lots of hunt and field work, she has great photos and really explains the finer points to the sport. I need that other person to take the photos while I'm working my dogs! I haven't had my dogs out in the field for over a year...so my approach was I just wanted them to have fun and get their feet wet again. Well, we did that and then some! Tristan received one qualifying leg on Sunday with very high scores! He handled really well on Saturday and nice scores in "trainability"...which means your dog listens to your commands. I was very pleased with this. Meaning when I called him he didn't just take off and run the other way. He wasn't able to find any birds on Saturday though. They do a random drawing for the running order. He got the 2nd brace after lunch. It was the heat of the day and almost 80.

      The birds were down and it was hot, hot hot! In spite of the heat, he ran really well...my dogs are used to hot and humid.

       

      had a ball and got 2 qualifying legs. Her overall scores were not as high, butTristan 1st qualifying leg! AKC Hunt Test she qualified both days! These events are so fun for the dogs. They love being able to get out there and do their thing. I have a ways to go with my skills, but practice will get us all there. It is also a fun weekend in the RV with great dog people. There were a lot of different pointing breeds at the event. There are a lot of Vizslas here, as well as German wire haired and short haired pointers. We had a few Gordon setters and an English setter as well. Conditioning is super important for your dog when you enter any if these performance events. If your dog is overweight or out of condition...you really shouldn't enter until your dog is ready. There is a LOT if excitement for the dogs and I think if your dog isn't in shape, you put them at risk by turning them out there.

      We do a lot of running in warmer weather as well as strength and conditioning exercises to keep in shape. It really pays off when your dogs are going hard and fast!

      Tristan  training day  fall pointing dogs Tristan on a Training Day in the Fall

      for performance events keeps their minds and bodies working. What do you do with your dogs to keep them mentally and physically active? While all this seems exhausting...working a high energy breed out is the way to go....if you leave them to their own devices to work off their energy, you might not be happy with the outcome! A tired dog is a good dog!

      The easier said than done team photo !
      Bird dogs hung test photo
      image
      Tristan and his 1st qualifying leg!

      It is not your dog...it is you

      This post was previously posted on November 8, 2013.  At the time of this visit Jazz was about 3...she got fit and went on to live a long, healthy life.  She celebrated her 15th birthday and we lost her later that summer.  I am convinced that had she not lost the weight, we would have never been able to enjoy her for so long...and with very few health issues.  It is never to late, to start helping your dog get fit today.

      Thank you Slim Doggy spreading the word!   "It is not the dog, it is you." Never were words more true uttered. And then the lecture began....about 13 years ago or so, my step son and I were taking our Brittany Jazz to the vet for her annual check up and this was our first time at the vet's office since we were new to the area. Jazz was about 3 at the time. She was my husband's dog when I met him. He was a single Dad, so for a lot of the time it was just he and Jazz. They had a good exercise routine, but an even better eating routine. In addition to her regular food, he would give her cheese and rice on top...why, because she liked it. While he was at work, he would leave the TV on for Jazz, she would burrow into the covers on the bed and watch TV, then wait for her yummy dinner every night. We all loved her, catered to her, she was our girl.

      Her ideal weight was around 37 lbs, but by the time of this visit she weighted 50 lbs...fat and happy doesn't begin to describe it. So here we are at Dr. Wilmarth's office and he says she is overweight and I begin with, "she likes to eat, she likes cheese..." And a few more reasons why she is overweight. He finally puts his hand up and says "let me stop you right there". He was probably old enough to be my dad at the time and he gave me a lecture right there that neither I nor our son will ever forget. He told me that the reason my dog was overweight was ME! He asked me if she ever fixed her own dinner. I tried to stammer back that sometimes she does get in the garbage. He demanded to know who fed her (me, my husband) and firmly established that she wasn't feeding herself but that WE were feeding her. Yes, I answered, we are the ones that feed her. And on the lecture went....he told me I controlled what she ate, that she was over 10 pounds over weight and that I was the only one that could help her lose the weight.

      I needed to feed her less and start today. Period the end. Corey and I quietly left the office with Jazz. Neither one of us said much on the way home. We really couldn't since there was nothing to be said. Our dog was overweight and she got that way because we over fed her, period the end. No excuses, no issues...a young dog overweight because we fed her too much. We loved her so much we put her health at risk.

      Well, she lost the weight and went on to live to the ripe old age of 16 at a healthy weight with very few health problems during her life. I'm certain if she would have stayed heavy, she wouldn't have been with us for that long. It is a combination of enough exercise and the right amount of food, and keeping that in balance.

      Sometimes it can be what you are feeding that is causing your dog to gain weight, but more often than not it is how much. Without getting crazy, radically changing your dog's diet or exercise program, you can help them lose a little weight by just reducing the amount that you feed. It seems so easy, but we seem to have a hard time with it. I always hated that expression "less is more"...really?!? I've always been a "more is more" person. Yes, I'll take less, less chocolate, less money, less wine...hmmmmm, no. But in this case I think it is actually true!

      A few small changes can help your pet get back to a healthier weight. Try: - using a measuring cup and be exact at every meal. You may think you are feeding just a cup at each meal, but when you measure it out, you may be surprised how much more you are actually putting in the bowl. - comparing what you've been feeding to what you should be and start gradually.

      Each week reduce the amount until you get it down. - if you give your dogs treats...look at how many you are giving, how many calories are in each one? Do you even know? - if your dog has been happily used to a high calorie diet, cutting way back right away is no fun for your dog (and isn't really fair either), so make changes a little each week and stick to them.

      Remember you control this part of your dog's health. A lot of things can come up in your dog's life that aren't fair and you can't control but you can control this part. Your dog is counting on you. "It is not your dog, it is you"...so true...now if I could only apply those same words to myself I might lose the extra weight I've been carrying around for the last 10 plus years..... Does your dog need to lose some weight? How are you helping them get there?