Thursday, April 15, 2010


I will preface this post by first stating that the video is long and I included more "exercises" than I will in future videos. Installments after this will focus on one exercise at a time, whereas this one is a few different exercises. The video editing is still a little rough because I'm still figuring this all out, so hopefully it will only improve from here!;o) I didn't do a commentary during the video, but I'll kind of give my take on the exercises and what I'm trying to do with them after I post the video. To start things off, I decided to use one of the pieces of equipment that is most easily accessible to everyone, is not cost prohibitive, is very durable, and is really a great way to get any dog used to idea of being on an unstable surface. Therefore, I picked our twin sized air mattress that we use. I could go with a queen size, but I don't want it to be so big that the dogs can just flail all over the place and not have to focus on what they're doing with their feet and legs as much. I want them to be conscious of what they're doing with their entire body no matter what I'm asking them to do. Therefore the twin is the ideal size for my size of dogs.

The first exercise is really basic and involves just getting the dog to walk around on the air mattress. Since my dogs are longer than the mattress is wide at it's narrowest, they have to keep that in mind as they're moving around in a circle. My criteria for that exercise is just that they move in a circle and maintain all four feet on the mattress. For some dogs, just getting them used to being on the air mattress is the first step. Then getting them to walk on it. And then getting them to walk patterns on it. If I upgraded our air mattress to a queen size I could then get them to walk different patterns on it because they would have more room. As you can see from their rear muscles as they go by the camera, they are working all their muscles even though technically all they're doing is walking. The variable surface that is different for each foot really works all the muscles of their body as they maintain balance while do this simple task. You also want to make sure that you don't work just one direction with whatever exercise you're doing. This can lead to unequal muscle build up and unbalance the dog. Always be sure to go in both directions if you're doing a pattern.

If you want to increase the intensity of the exercise, let some air out of the mattress. This makes the surface less stable and requires the dog to do more work because they sink more into the mattress. With my dogs, as they're shifting from the front of the mattress to the back, one end will also have a tendency to pop up and they then have to push it down. There's all sorts of coordination involved.

The next exercise is what a lot of people call puppy push ups. You're having the dog go from a down to a sit to a down. They really have to work that hind end and keep it stable because that's what's balancing them as they move up and down. My criteria for this exercise is that they don't get any cookies if their butt comes off the mattress. It's kind of a way to work obedience commands while also strengthening those specific muscles.

You'll notice that Bess is a fan of throwing herself into a down on the mattress. It never stops cracking me up and that's probably why she continues to do it. She actually was a little more toned down in this clip than she often is. A lot of times she'll also throw in a paw slam on my leg as she goes down. She is enthusiastic in a lot of the things that she does!

The third exercise is just kind of a side bend while laying down. It's hard to tell from the angle of the camera, but I'm having them reach around to essentially their hock joints to get the cookie. It's just meant to be a mild stretch and contraction of those side muscles to sort of get them warmed up for the next one. And again, because they are on a variable surface, no matter what movements they are doing, all of the muscles in their body are being engaged just to maintain balance. Even though they're lying down, there are still slight shifts in weight in addition to the exercise itself.

Once they're in the mode of reaching around to get the treat, I've then started working with them on actually laying on their side and lifting from that prone position to get the treat near their hip. At the time that this video was taken, that particular exercise was relatively new to the dogs and we hadn't worked out all of the kinks. They are now both doing it really well, though Bess is REALLY into it. She will essentially lay flat like she's dead and then totally curl herself up on her side to get the cookie. I'll probably try to take a video of that this weekend and post it so that you have a better idea of what I'm trying to accomplish. This maneuver really works the core and back muscles.

I did intersperse Bess' part of this exercise with a little of her high five action. She LOVES doing this trick! She's slowly getting better at holding it and balancing on her rear on a flat surface. And I just think it's freaking cute when she does it!

You MAY have noticed that there are a few changes in the ball studio since the Christmas picture that I posted. I've deflated the 85 cm ball and am selling it. Since I've got the 120 cm ball and the other balls and I'm kind of getting tight on space, it was the obvious choice to go. The green tarp that you see hanging on the left side of the area is there to help protect my half of the garage from sawdust for those times when Adam wants to cut something in the garage. It's not often, but it was seriously bugging me to have to wipe down and clean all of the equipment to make sure there weren't any nasty sawdust bits that could potentially pop any of the balls. So far it's work really well! I think that's about it. Like I said, this is my first attempt. The next one will be better put together and shorter. I hope you enjoyed it!!

Oh yeah, and I'll explain more about how I got both dogs convinced to get up on the balls in the first place when I get to those exercises. Heffner was pretty quickly willing, but Bess took some convincing.


Wild Dingo said...

Wow! i really like this post because I had to do similar stuff for my Sibe with hip dysplasia. I actually had her doing "sit pretty" (2 front feet off the ground like a beg) on a half ball (the kind that's flat on the bottom. they had me use an air mattress too because it's good muscle build up for her. i think maybe i'll buy one now. you've inspired me to teach them how to use the ball! i have a big purple one i never use. it might be fun to try it. i wonder if there are any books on how to teach a dog to play or do tricks with one? very cool post!

Wild Dingo said...

oh and i also liked the ball post before this one... just sayin... :)

Lindsay said...

I'm so glad you liked it!! There is actually a DVD set out called Get On The Ball Two. Clean Run sells it. There are three DVDs and there's all sorts of stuff on them. You should definitely check it out!

Kim said...

Thanks for the great post! I never thought of using an air mattress for conditioning work, and there is no way Bosley will fit on one of those doggie exercise balls.