Happy Mothers Day everyone!! I took some time this week to get some better footage of the dogs doing their side sit-ups/side bends on the air mattress. I was going to record an exercise for this month's conditioning post anyway and I'm just anal enough about this stuff that I wanted a better example of the dogs doing what I was originally talking about from last month. So here it is!
The exercise that I focused on for this month involves the pill shaped ball. This particular ball I picked up at Fred Meyer for somewhere between $19.99 and 24.99; I just can't remember. I'll post the video clip first and then explain afterwards.
What I'm trying to accomplish with this exercise is to get the dog to stay in a sitting position and slowly take one step forward. To do this, the dog has to work all their various muscles and really engage those core muscles to keep the back legs on the ball, but also move the ball with them and not have it go flying out. I do keep my back foot against the ball so that there aren't any instances of this happening otherwise.
I chose the pill shaped ball for this exercise because it's pretty ideal for it. It's meant to roll mostly in two directions and not all directions like a circular ball. I'm sure that any generally oval shaped ball would do, but the egg ball that I have is too tall for what I want. The dogs would have their rears higher than their front ends (or at least Bess would) if I were to use it. Plus, I think that when you're first trying out this exercise, it's helpful to get the dog realizing what you're doing with a shorter pill ball so that it builds confidence and also lets you as the handler figure out where your arms and legs need to be without any danger of the dog getting injured.
To start things out, I have the dogs slowly walk over the pill ball. You can see they've some great balancing skills and will actually put all four feet on the ball before walking over it. You want to keep that motion slow and controlled. Otherwise you have a dog that's just hopping and flailing around and most likely going to injure themselves, you, or both of you. Control is good!
Once the dogs are comfortably in a sitting position, I use a treat to lure them to take a step forward. I don't want them walking off of the ball, but I do want them to take one step and roll the ball with them. Once they get the treat and I pull my arm back to get another one, they take a step backwards, which also requires control and engagement of various muscle groups. It's essentially a back and forth motion. And as you'll notice, the dogs generally crane their heads around to see when the treats coming. Because they're always bending in that one direction when facing that way, I also do this same exercise with them facing the opposite direction so that they don't build up any muscle imbalances. I didn't have the tripod set up correctly to capture them doing this exercise in the other direction (and I also didn't have it set up to record quite high enough, but it works).
It's a pretty simple exercise. Once they're comfortable with the ball it should be pretty simple. At some point in the future I will probably buy an egg ball that is slightly larger than the pill ball for this exercise and others that spring from it. Just to make things a little more difficult.