For this month's conditioning exercise, I decided to video some of the balancing and weight shifting that I have the dogs do centered around the jumbo core disc. You can easily start out small and then add in a variety of things to work a few or all of their muscles. Any time they have to balance on anything, they're working and strengthening muscle groups. When you add in different moves where they have to maintain their balance, or shift their weight, they're exercising different muscle groups. It's really fun to play around with! Here's the video I put together.
I started off the video by showing a quit bit on how I got them started on the giant disc. I put the disc between myself and a solid structure so that they essentially had a limited area of movement. Sort of shaping how I wanted them to get on. They both caught on to that pretty quickly. Next was just getting them to walk over the disc. They're used to putting their front feet on everything that I set down in front of them. So I just had to get them to continue walking over the disc first. When they were walking over it, I made sure to emphasize them having to place their rear feet on it. Once they got used to that, I started having them pause with just their rear feet on the disc. After that, I got them to start sitting on it. This really only took a couple of sessions for them to really get the idea of what I was trying to have them do. Bess caught on quicker than Heffner did. But she's like that.;o)
Once I got them balancing fine in a sit on the disc against the "wall" I decided to move it out into the middle of the floor to really test their balancing skills. After they got the hang of that, I started testing their balance skills with a simple shifting of weight. In this case, I had them shaking my hand with alternating paws. It took them a few tries at first to figure out that I wanted to shake my hand, but also keep their bums firmly balanced on the disc. It seemed like once they figured that out, I could throw all sorts of things at them and they understood that the basic requirement was that their rear end stay on the disc and they balance accordingly.
When they had the whole hand shaking down pat, I had to figure out what to try next. Since I was focusing on transferring weight and maintaining balance, I wanted to see what they could do while standing up. I needed to start them out on something pretty easy so that they could just focus on what their rear was doing. I pulled out my taped up phone book (we do a lot of pivoting on this thing so they very happily and pretty much automatically put their front feet on it) for them to place their front feet on while balancing their rear feet on the disc. They caught on really quick. From there I started walking from side to side. Since they're always watching me and waiting for that cookie, they're having to shift their weight accordingly to watch me and still maintain balance. I love this exercise because I can really see their muscles working.
From there, I decided that I was going to increase the difficulty a bit and give them an unstable surface to balance their front feet on in addition to having their rear feet on the balance disc. This was a little trickier and requires more effort, but they still very happily participate. I don't do a lot of me walking around them right now when they have two balancing objects. I want them really strong with me stationary before I add movement in.
It's been a while since I ordered the giant balance disc, so I don't remember exactly where I got it from. I do know that Clean Run sells something similar, just slightly different. I use the disc with the bumpy side up. The "spikes" kind of look uncomfortable, but I tried them with my own bare feet and they bend quite easily and neither of the dogs seem to mind them. I like them because they give the dogs a little more traction than the smooth side. And as I mentioned, for stationary object, I use a taped up phone book. It works really well and lasts a long time. The object that I used for their front feet when I increased the difficulty, I used the 12 in. balance pod sold by Clean Run. This also has "spines" but they are very rounded and comfortable to the touch.
Hopefully I've explained everything that I did well enough, but if anyone does have questions, feel free to leave me a comment and I will answer you to the best of my ability!