Tuesday, May 31, 2011

It's All Fun & Games: Jumping the Hurdles

(by Ana Grimh, CPDT-KA)

Jumping over hurdles can be excellent for exercising our dogs, especially on those rainy, stormy, or snowy (at least, here in Wisconsin) days. You do not have to jump over the jumps with your dog, but you can create jumps from broomsticks, scraps of wood, boxes, and other household items. You could also buy materials and build simple simple jumps if you are handy, or buy an Agility or Flyball set (Miller, 2008). If you'd rather not build anything, you could enroll in our Backyard Agility class - lots of fun at a non-competitive level!

To begin teaching your dog to JUMP, follow these steps:

1. Set up one low jump. We have a video on our Youtube page (http://youtu.be/YR7v5hUcVMs) on setting up a sample jump. If your dog is cautious, lay the bar on the floor and encourage your dog to step over it by luring with a treat. As he gets more comfortable, toss treats on one side of the low jump, then the other, until he is jumping easily. Use lots of verbal praise as well, to keep it cheerful and exciting (Miller, 2008).

2. When he is jumping smoothly, add a verbal cue such as "Jump!" or "Over!" Start using the cue just before you toss the treat.

3. To fade the treat, make a motion with your hand as if you were tossing the treat, then give the verbal cue. After your dog jumps, then toss the treat. Eventually move to randomly rewarding with a treat (ie, random reinforcement), so he does not receive a treat EVERY time he successfully jumps. Remember to use verbal praise! Your excitement will keep your dog enthusiastic about jumping!

4. Gradually raise the jump to a height that is suitable for your dog. Vary the location and type of jumps, so your dog is jump-versatile. You can hang towels or jackets over jump bars to change the look, put flower pots or children's toys under them -- be creative!

Hopping over small obstacles and fences can be applied to hiking and walking - if there is something in your dog's path, you can ask him to JUMP. Puppies, however, should not jump too much or too high -- it can damage their soft baby bones and joints. Even adult dogs should jump primarily on giving surfaces (grass, not cement) with good traction to avoid injury and arthritis, and should not be asked to jump higher than is comfortable and safe. If you are unsure, check with your veterinarian (Miller, 2008).

As you can see, jumping can expend quite a bit of energy, and it is so easy to set up inside or outside! Try it out, and see how much fun you have - and when you are ready, sign up to join our Backyard Agility class to share that enthusiasm and talent with others!

Happy training!

Work Cited:
-Miller, Pat (CPDT-KA, CDBC). Positive Perspectives 2: Know Your Dog, Train Your Dog. A Dogwise Training Manual, 2008.

Friday, May 20, 2011

It's All Fun and Games: Find It

(by Ana Grimh, CPDT-KA)

We are on a roll with all the game playing! Games are a great outlet for getting out some energy, especially on rainy days, or days you are super busy. In our last post, we discussed "Hide and Seek," and this week, we'd like to introduce another delightful game!

"Find It" is going to be a game of searching for a hidden toy, treat, etc on cue. To train "Find It," get your dog's attention, then start training the game by hiding a small high-value treat under a piece of paper or a toy. Let him see you hide it, and even leave it partially in view the first time. Then say "find it!" in an excited voice. Encourage your dog until he or she finds the treat and gobbles it down.

If your dog doesn't get the idea, lift up the paper or toy, show him the treat, partially cover it again, and repeat "find it!" He or she should get the idea quickly. Be sure to keep your voice excited and your tone light and happy. It's important not to get frustrated, since this should be a fun game for both you and your dog. If he or she still doesn't the idea, try a higher value treat. Hide a second treat and repeat the process. Be sure to cheer and act very excited every time he or she finds a treat.

Once he or she gets the idea, start making finding the hidden treat harder and harder. Start hiding treats under different objects, from different pieces of newspaper to other toys. Also begin to work on distance. Start placing the hidden treats two or three feet away from your dog, then four or five. After that, try having another family member distract your dog while you hide a treat. Continue increasing the difficulty level until you can hide treats for your dog to find in another room.

This can also help dogs with separation distress by keeping them busy, as well as making time apart from you positive (with food/treats). In essence, you can hide a bunch of treats and/or stuffed toys (like Kongs) before you leave, tell your dog to “Find It!” and leave. Your dog will get some much needed mental stimulation from all that searching! You can play this little game any time you would like to distract your dog, have fun with your dog, and/or get your dog's energy out in a healthy fashion!

Happy training!

Monday, May 9, 2011

It's All Fun and Games: Hide and Seek

(by Ana Grimh, CPDT-KA)

Do you remember playing hide and go seek as a child? Or, even now, do you play with your own children? How about with your dog?

Hide and seek is a fabulous game to play with your canine family member - it can begin to establish with your dog that he should keep his eyes on you! Not only that, but it lays the foundation for recall (aka, "come").

How do you begin? First, take your dog somewhere new and fenced in (ie, "safe"). Play with your dog for awhile, then wait around until he gets bored and starts exploring the area on his own. Sneak away and hide behind something. Hide somewhere that allows you to peek out and keep an eye on your dog, without letting him see you.

When he looks up and around, and realizes he lost you, he'll look a little worried. Make some little noise, from your hiding spot, until his head gets directed generally toward you. Then try being quiet again. Let him worry a little and let him do the work finding you. Make another little noise if he gets way off track.

When he does find you, squeal with delight and go running off, letting him chase you around, or drop onto the ground for some belly rubs and lots of praise! Then, go running off and hide again! This time call him as you run off, then dart behind something. It doesn't matter if you're not completely hidden, he'll still have fun finding you. Once your pup figures out this is a fun game, he will try to watch you more closely, so he can win.

Also try it at home, indoors. It can be a good way to exercise him on rainy, icky days! Make it easy at first, and slowly increase the difficulty of finding you. Remember to try it in unfamiliar places away from home, too. That will have the biggest impact on helping him realize that he can't afford to lose track of where you are.

Happy training!