Hmm my mind has been on "puppies" lately, not really sure why. LOL
Teaching a puppy body awareness and weight distribution exercises at an early age helps the puppy grow into a confident, well balanced and coordinated dog. I start teaching my clients these types of exercises when their puppies are just 8 -12 weeks old. I adjust duration of exercise or repetitions to the age, ability and attention span of the puppy I am working with and I mix in PLAY as much as possible during the sessions.
Body awareness programs for puppies teach them how to learn through shaping and luring. It will also increases the human/dog bond. Many exercises can be shaped as independent movements but some exercises require you to physically maneuver your dog to achieve the correct position. Handling all body parts of your puppy at an early age helps them to be more tolerant of it as they grow older. This is important for nail trimmings, grooming and trips to the vet.
I focus on exercises that require balance and coordination but do not over stress the joints at an early age. I am slow and careful with puppies. Puppies get a lot of jumping, pivoting and multi-directional balance in everyday life -- as they run around the back yard and play with pack mates.
When performing exercise with puppies, I carefully watch for movements that keep the knees in line with the hips as much as the puppy’s conformation allows. I also watch for good posture, top-line angles and head position.
As previously mentioned in a earlier blog, I do not recommend multi-directional wobble boards or balance discs for sustained exercises for puppies because when puppies, and some older dogs, mount these pieces of equipment their rear legs spread wide which can put unnecessary pressure on the joints. My preference is to teach the puppy body awareness and coordination on the flat first. Once the dog can obtain the correct position on the flat, then I add unstable FitPAWS equipment such as rocker boards, peanuts, Fitbones, and paw pods that improve proper weight distribution while keeping the body in alignment. I suggest putting the donut holder under the wobble board which allows it to jiggle but not to rock. When the dog has well developed muscles and bones (at about age 12 months) then add sustained exercises on wobble boards and balance discs.
I also like surface training a puppy with a deflated large balance discs put on top of the rocker board so you get unstable and a different surface. Other options would be the deflated Fitpaws balance disc on top of the peanuts, donut, and under caveletti poles.
I feel it is very important to watch the amount of repetition done in any routine. Set a time limit and stick to it, and watch your puppy’s posture, topline angle, rear leg and head position to make sure you are encouraging good weight distribution, posture and alignment.
Early Puppy Development:
Please note: Putting balance discs, and wobble boards in whelping boxes for surface discrimination exposure is perfectly fine. The puppies generally are walking over or laying on these pieces if equipment, they are not doing sustained exercises or holding sustained positions.
My concerns are for the puppy after arriving at its forever home. New puppy owners get over excited about having a puppy that they tend to start training tricks right away. Why not, there are so many options these days to help teach your puppy how to learn. Where the problem lies in the repetition involved in training new exercises and positions. We are human and we get excited and 15 min can go by quickly and the number of repetitions that can be done in 5-15 minutes is astounding.
Bobbie Lyons, Cert CF Ph. 503-329-1235
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Bobbie Lyons, CCFT, FP-MTI