Rebel Soul Timeless Applause = "Bravo" is now 14 weeks old. He has lived at my house now for 7 weeks. I was in California for 2 of those weeks and gone for 2 long weekends sharing K9 Fitness with the masses. Yikes. I had this overwhelming feeling of being behind in the training processes until I started looking at what we have accomplished.
Mr Bravo has been working on LIFE skills. During the times when I am at home we have done the following:
I may have forgotten a couple things but I guess we aren't doing too bad. I believe that puppies should be allowed to be puppies. Life skills, fun skills and foundation performance skills (on the flat) are great things to teach a young pup but don't forget to play. Puppies need to have fun, they need to play and they need general life skills to become good doggy citizens.
I am starting Bravo off a bit different in hopes of improving communication from the start. Stay tuned for more training and fun with myself, Bravo and Drama as we all become a better team
Recently I have seen several social media comments that balance products and canine fitness training indoors is a fad. Of course, I disagree and wanted to share my thoughts on this subject.
Physical activity is the cornerstone for keeping muscles and joints functioning and all systems working together for both human and canine athletes. Some say it is more useful to take their dog hiking or swimming but the majority of people don’t have access to large open spaces where their dog encounters different surfaces, elevation and footing challenges. Even if they did this is typically not a balanced cross training fitness program. Not everyone lives in the same climate and when it is too hot or too cold to be outside, having other means to mentally and physically challenge your dog is key to having a happy healthy dog. This is where balance products and indoor DogTreadmills are useful tools and help canine fitness be more attainable.
Balance products, like those made by FitPAWS, are “tools” that can be used in a variety of different ways and with the guidance of a knowledgeable fitness trainer, you can learn how to properly use the equipment to benefit your dog.
Most folks fall into two categories – they overdo it or they underdo it. In an effort to understand the exercise and train their dog to do it, handlers often ask for too much repetition. In addition, once trained to do the exercise they are not completing enough reps and sets to challenge their dog’s muscles to improve strength, coordination and limb awareness. Often “fitness” training is thought of as “trick training” and once trained, the handler stops asking their dog to do the exercise. If you look at fitness as a trick then you are more likely to overwork your dog due to the repetition involved in training. This is such a shame because the training part is mental exercise and should be done in frequent short sessions. Once the dog understands the movement desired, that is when it becomes an exercise and you add reps and sets to gain muscle activation, improve strength and balance in your dog.
I can’t speak for others who teach canine fitness but my students benefit from instruction on how to challenge their dogs in all planes of motion while activating targeted muscles. Balance props aid in the ability to create a well-balanced fitness program in a controlled environment.
Working as a team, the handler and I work together to accomplish the goals below:
Before FitPAWS existed, my students would search the web for equipment and end up with a mishmash of equipment that was different than what I had – not the same size or level of stability. When this happens, the dog responds differently to the planned exercise due to the changes in stability and may not be activating the intended muscle groups. Having products from the same manufacturer creates a more predictable level of consistency with each exercise.
I have been teaching strength and body awareness for a long time and I get testimonials from students weekly about how their dogs performance has improved. That performance may be that their dog is able to hold a sit in obedience, jump further in dock diving, improved their times in agility, has better jump timing and form, or is simply striding better for conformation.
The goal for a balanced program is to choose specific exercises, move your dogs in all planes of motion, complete reps and sets and watch for signs of fatigue. If you don’t have the knowledge to design a balanced fitness program for your dog, seek advice from a Certified Canine Fitness Trainer or Rehabilitation Specialist who understands how to design a fitness program for your dog and the activities that you are involved in.
The tools that we use to complete a canine fitness program will vary depending on the dog’s needs and conditioning goals. Fitness training and the tools that we use to mentally and physically challenge our dogs should never be considered a fad but it should be considered an integral part of your dog’s fitness training program.
Over the past few months my brain has been absorbing all kinds of information. I believe that continuing education is so very important in dog training, canine fitness and well in LIFE. For me, I go through stages where my brain is full and I couldn't possibly put more into it and then all of a sudden it is time to open up the doors for learning again.
Here is what I have been up to:
There are always natural learning opportunities but sometimes you have to seek them out and schedule them into your life. If may not be easy but it IS totally worth it.
Consequently - Drama and I have trained a lot. The training assignments required through KPA are quite extensive. I had to be very careful to keep Drama's arousal and environmental sensitivity at a managed level. Not that I didn't do that before but with the number of training exercises in short periods of time that were required, it was important to be very careful about how much pressure I felt and applied to him.
I am proud of what we have accomplished together. We are a team and our communication and training will just keep getting better and better as we grow and learn together.
Below is a combination exercise that on the "surface" may seem relatively easy but I believe that we must look at it from the dogs perspective and train each "movement" individually before asking our dogs to complete complicated exercises.
This is an equipment combination that I used in my Fitness with Focus class BUT these particular advanced exercises were not shown. I decided to put in a blog post because I believe it demonstrates how complicated exercise can be "for our dogs". We need to advocate for our dogs and stop tossing them under the buss! Train each movement, each piece of equipment and each exercise individually so that our dogs truly understands what is being asked. Our dogs do a GREAT job of "guessing" what we want. Or they "follow a lure" to the next piece of equipment or to the next movement. When they guess or follow a lure they are not activating the right muscles to stabilize on balance equipment because their body is moving by their nose or off the handlers movement.
Once your dog starts to truly understand what you are asking, you will see a major shift in their fitness. Your dog will become stronger, move better, stabilize their movements in all direction AND the chance of injury will be reduced.
Basic foundation skills:
There is a lot that goes into the training of each exercise and each piece of equipment you use. If you are unsure of how to train a combination exercise or what the foundation skills are - ask. I am always happy to tell you.
Please enjoy the video. Ask questions if you like, pass it on to others and think about what you are asking of your dog.
Sign up today for Live Online lessons. One lesson is $100 USD or you can get FOUR lessons for $350 USD ($50 off). When you decide on lessons from me, you will get FOUR 60 min lessons via Zoom (like Skype - it's easy. I will talk you through it). My students have really enjoyed these lessons while learning how to properly strengthen their dogs. Having a trainer in your back yard or living room to give you REAL time feedback is super beneficial and via the internet, I can be there with you. Four lessons allows us to build on what you and your dog already know, teach needed foundation skills and design a plan specific to you and your dog. I am not in the business of selling you equipment so we will use what you have and things you have around your house. I may suggest equipment for a specific strength exercise but it I will do my best to use what you have. Lessons can be scheduled during the day or some evenings.
What you get:
In July I drug Danielle Hall to Germany to teach workshops but before we started we did have a few days to see some sites.
We got to Germany on Thursday after many hours of traveling. On Friday our awesome host Carmen Heritier (check out her book Gymnastricks) took us site seeing here: www.pfaenderbahn.at/en/
On Saturday Sandra Rutz took us by catamaran to the beautiful city of Lake Constance/Kontanz. We wondered around the City and took photos. The architecture was amazing and the lake was beautiful!!
On Sunday Carmen took us to Meersburg Castle (the first Castle I have every seen in person). To see something that old, feel the depth of what life was like all those years ago was simply amazing.
THEN - we did Danielle's dream - yep horseback riding through the fields and forest in Germany. Danielle is a much more accomplished horse back rider than I am. She probably would have had a bunch more fun if she would have left me behind. It was a slow, fun and a scenic ride.
Then Monday - Thurs we taught some really awesome people and dogs all about K9Fitness!
Mon - Foundation work and cavaletti (both 4.5 hr workshops)
Tues/Wed - 2 day Advanced - program design, equip combos, injury prev
Friday - Senior/Puppy and private lessons
The students and dogs were fantastic to work with and our host couldn't have been better. Carmen treated us like Queens and tended to ALL our needs. Even got Danielle a pharmacy of cold medicine when she was sick the last couple days.
My pal Inge Dillen of Nimble-K9 - brought the amazing Nalu to demonstrate. It was so great being able to spend time with her again and talk fitness.
Here is a smattering of photos from the workshops.
Summer always seems to go by fast, I hope you all enjoyed your Summer!!!!
I started teaching K9Fitness and body awareness with dogs just under 13 years ago and I had no idea where it would take me. I didn’t have a path in mind, a goal or even an inkling that it would be my DREAM, my FOCUS and full time job. I am so thankful to be able to share what I love and continue to learn and grow as my clients and the industry pushes me to be a better fitness coach and a better dog trainer.
Independent cued behaviors will encourage proper movement, strength and mental focus.
When I first started training, much of it was done by luring and movement off body pressure. I quickly realized that shaping behaviors for fitness gives the dog time to think about their body and allow their muscles, joints, and limbs to respond to what is being asked. I still teach using luring, targeting and body pressure but my goal in fitness is always that the dog is able to offer the work with focus on the exercise at hand and not food in YOUR hand.
I want to “put it out there” that we can do better – we can be better teachers and better teammates to our dogs. After all, we are working with fully functioning healthy dogs that are mentally and physically capable of learning the process if we take the time to teach them. Shaping using a clicker is fun and it truly teaches your dog something that they will remember and be able to offer forever.
We can do better by teaching our dogs the foundation steps to every exercise with methods that encourage our dog to think about their body during the process.
Quite often dogs are asked to do a more challenging exercises than they are mentally and physically ready for based on the equipment the owner has and a video seen on Facebook or YouTube. This is done without any thought to what the dog should understand or the strength that needs to be established before proceeding with the movement or static position. Teaching each step and each movement prepares your dog mentally and physically for each exercise challenge presented.
Starting JUNE 1, 2017 - I am offering Shaping K9Fitness, a 3 mo long class June/July/Aug – my new Facebook class. This class will inspire you to shape some or all of the behaviors for a multifaceted exercise combination each month. I decided to offer this class in an effort to have REAL fitness and training discussion about strength and body awareness exercises. It is offered on Facebook to make the class and discussion easily accessible by mobile device and/or computer. Learn how much MORE you can accomplish with fitness by putting behaviors on cue and allowing your dog all the steps to gain the strength and knowledge for each exercise. Will everything be perfect and set in stone – NO. I want this class to be more of a discussion, a collaboration of sorts to find all the great ways to shape and capture behaviors. I have ideas and they are GREAT but they are not the only way. I am always learning from my students, they are great trainers.
Learn from me, teach me and let’s work together for our dogs.
Sign Up HERE
I often get asked what my “fitness and training” philosophy is. My standard response is:
“Using a variety of methods, I train strength and body awareness exercises that activate more muscles in the dog’s movement, while moving the dog equally on both sides and in all directions, which inspires efficient movement with less effort and decreases the chance of injury” Bobbie Lyons, CCFT, FP-MTI, Cert C.F
Just thought I would share my philosophy. I can’t speak to other philosophies, I can only tell you mine.
I use a variety of training methods: shaping, luring, targeting, molding, capturing – all methods that positively reward the dog with food or toys for the desired behavior. I have students that use one or many of the methods mentioned and I support them all in my classes. I may show a behavior using hand targeting, by showing the steps with shaping or by luring a behavior – but that does not mean that each student has to use the method I use. Again, I support the methods mentioned above and will do my best to help you achieve the desired position or exercise using the method that works best for you and your dog. That said, if you are willing, I may open your mind to other training methods such as the advantages of shaping, luring or targeting while helping to decrease the amount of food used so that your dog’s pays closer attention to their body and movement.
We all learn in different ways, have different goals, or training methods. Finding a method and trainer that works for you and your dog’s and/or your clients is important. Also, understand that there is always something to learn. Entertaining different perspectives can help you grow in your knowledge, give you more training tools, and give you food for thought.
NOTE: I strive to shape behaviors and movements, put the behaviors on a verbal cue and encourage independent movement. That said, not all fitness exercises can be trained as a "trick" because sometimes the position may be hard or impossible to obtain as an independent behavior, in the correct position, when targeting a specific muscle group.
I just thought I would share my philosophy, due to requests for this information:)
Here are a few options for learning more about K9 Fitness.
Online consult with Bobbie Lyons, CCFT, FP-MTI, CERT CF – via LIVE training via Skype/Facetime/Join.me or other service. During live lessons, I can guide you in real time, adjust your training to get the desired behavior and design a strength program specific to your dog. A written recap of the lesson will be sent to you along with a recording of the live lesson.
MT/CCFT program – designed to teach you to evaluate your own dog or client’s dogs for fitness activities and to design targeted exercises programs for your dog using FitPAWS equipment.
Take an online Class - of course I would love for you to take my classes but there are many out there to choose from. My NEW Fitness on the Flat (no equipment needed) and Warm UP/Cool Down/Flexibility class enrolls 2/1/2017
Equipment inflation has come up a lot lately in my online classes and even my private lesson clients. Some clients will bring their equipment to me so I can adjust the inflation appropriately for their dog and the exercises in their dog's current exercise program. Some folks don't know how to take air out and even some are unsure how to put air in. Let me clear that up for you.....
Rules of thumb for inflating and deflating
Depending on the size of the dog you are working with, the dog's level of strength/fitness and the exercise you are working on, taking air out or adding air in can increase or decrease the level of difficulty for your dog. This is NOT standardized but in general these two things "can" be true.
If your dog is struggling for balance and is unable to find balanced quickly - either equipment inflation needs to be adjusted or you have asked for an exercise that is above the dog's level of fitness. Equipment inflation is a little like "goldilocks", sometimes you have to "test" it out to see if the inflation is "just right" for your dog. If you put 5 Fitness Coaches in a room and you ask them "is more air or less air easier" - you will get a debate that won't end because the answer depends on the size of dog, the dogs level of fitness AND the specific exercise you are trying to perform.
If you are trying a new exercise and your dog is really struggling - don't be afraid to adjust the air in your equipment. I feel that that increasing or decreasing the air in equipment is an under utilized tool and I want to encourage you to use it.
Another option is to just buy more equipment and have a different amounts of air in each piece. For example:
Below are two photos to show you some different inflation options for the FitPAWS Giant Balance Disc and the FitPAWS K9FITbone. When looking at the bones - look at the "shadow" under and around the K9FITbones to help you determine what is different about the inflation.
Left - more inflated, Middle average and Right deflated
If you got my newsletter, then you have already read this but if not - ENJOY!
Recently, a person I respect a lot asked me for ONE THING that I would change or do better. For some reason this question was really floating around in my mind in the weeks that follow. Then a trainer told me that I often “skip steps” or “jump ahead” in my training. Now interestingly enough, these two instances were NOT related but in my mind they really got the wheels turning. If I were to train ONE movement or behavior one step at a time then the end behavior will be stronger AND my dog will better understand what is expected.
Hmmmm….Interestingly enough, I thought I was training each step until I really sat down and started dissecting each thing I was currently training Drama to do.
Drama is a very operant dog who is willing to try anything - good thing because I have skipped some steps here and there. After some reflection, I found that if there are five steps to training a behavior, I might do 1, 3, 5 instead of every single step, which creates grey area for my dog that supports a “sloppy” behavior or a behavior that needs to be supported. I get the behavior I want but it is not as polished as I would like it to be.
When I spend the time to train each step independently my dog truly understands what I am asking of him and there is no GREY area. WOW what a concept. I have always considered myself a good “trick and focus” trainer (after all, Drama is a Trick Dog Champion TDCH) but I believe that if I train each behavior or movement with all the steps in mind, it will make me a better trainer and help my dog to understand what I want. It might even take less time and effort to train the behavior even though there are more “steps”. My clients will benefit as well from this knowledge and encouragement to break each exercise down into steps that their dog can easily understand and follow.
Not that I didn’t take steps before but I feel that more steps can be taken to train each exercise in an effort to help the dog understand and engage more muscles in their movement. If I can help each person break down desired behaviors or movements into MORE steps, it will help to slow down the dog, engage the right muscles, encourage balance and coordination as well as encourage better defined body awareness.
This all got me thinking about how my clients “inspire” their dog to do specific behaviors or movements needed for each fitness exercise. I believe that people often reward many things while trying to get an exercise trained especially if luring the dog. If you are constantly feeding your dog, then your dog is not really “learning” – your dog is following the food. That said, even if you are luring, you can reward ONE behavior at a time to help your dog understand the “steps”. It is not necessary to be feeding your dog 100% of the time, and in fact it can be confusing to your dog as well as counter-productive in most situations especially when training canine fitness. I often tell my students to take the food away, reward less often, turn their lure hand backwards and to use a nose touch or nose touch hold instead of a food lure. These things all can work but I feel that if we start looking at “training ONE thing at a time or ONE step at a time”, it will work even better.
With all that said:
I hope this post inspires you to have a plan, break things down into steps for your dog, reward ONE thing at time, identify proper reward timing when chaining two or more trained behaviors together and to put each trained behavior on cue.
There are many approaches to K9FITNESS:
If you know me or have been following me, you know that I subscribe to progressive steps starting at the foundation level and moving slowly into more challenging exercises.
Why? I believe that if the dog understands how to use their body efficiently, understands where their body is in space, and how to engage their core, then strength training can be skill based while targeting specific muscle groups. Without a proper foundation of body awareness and muscle engagement, it leaves our dogs at risk.
So many dogs get tossed into the deep end of the pool because they are asked to perform exercises that are beyond their current level of fitness or capabilities. Taking the time in the beginning to train the foundation will save you time, frustration and possibly an injured dog in the future. It is important to assess where each dog is, what they already know and what needs to be taught to increase the efficiency of the exercise chosen for that dog.
Every dog I see, starts with foundation exercises - this is to protect the dog's muscles and joints and encourage injury prevention. Some dogs will progress quickly as their owner just needs to "refine" movements or behaviors they have already trained. Some dog's will start at the beginning and it may take a bit longer.
Fitness is not a sprint - it is a marathon.
Here is one foundation exercise shown in my class and also presented at the live lab for the CCFT/Master Trainer program:
To start your dog off on the right track join my online Foundation K9Fitness class available now for just $59 - two week self guided class with 14 movements or behaviors.
As an instructor for the CCFT program (Certified Canine Fitness Trainer/FitPAWS Master Trainer Program) I am proud of what we have put together, honored to be apart of it and humbled when the students achieve success. This program teaches how to assess the dog, when to refer to a veterinarian, how to choose exercises, what are signs of fatigue and how to increase the level of exercises based on the capabilities of the dog. Online and in person training required.
Bobbie Lyons, CCFT, KPA CPT