2015 has been a busy busy year.
Due to my other writing engagements - 12 articles for Clean Run Magazine (so if you missed those, go back and check them out) and the conditioning for jumping skills chapter in Linda Mechlenburg's new book (published by Clean Run - should be in print soon) I have not written a blog post in quite some time. I have tried to keep things updated by sharing videos and thoughts on Facebook but it is time to get back to my blog, sharing deeper thoughts about this wonderful job "I get to do" every day. I don't know many folks that get to do what they are passionate about. I feel very lucky.
What else have I been doing.....
Helping to create an awesome program
FitPAWS took a leap of faith, gathered dog trainers, veterinarians and physical physical therapists (human and dog) and embarked on a journey to create the FitPAWS Master Trainer Program - now merged with the University of Tennessee - CCFT program. Completing and passing both programs will earn you a certification backed by a university - how AWESOME is that. As one of the course instructors, I have taught at five MT programs and will be heading to the UK in December with FitPAWS to share the master trainer program to those abroad. Super excited for this opportunity ~ one step closer to K9Fitness WORLD DOMINATION. When you have goals - go big right???
Raising a puppy - DRAMA
Drama has certainly grown up over this year and many of you have watched him grow via Facebook . He is 33 lbs, almost 14 mo old and his growth plates are closed. So officially he is ready to start whatever training I have planned. You all know me to be super conservative, so you know that I don't take that as a license to start repetitive training just yet. Drama and I will ease into whatever we decide to do. I have plans, stay tuned to find out what we will be doing.
This year Drama and I have traveled to Colorado 7x, Connecticut, Washington 2x, California, Maryland, Virginia, New York, Oklahoma, and will finish off the year with Montana, another trip to California and the UK. It is too bad they don't give frequent flyer miles to dogs. Drama is a great traveler and we have had minimal issues. Our last trip was a bit scary for a few minutes but it all got sorted out and I love having him with me. It has been so great meeting my online students in person and so many folks that are interested in how to improve their relationship with their dogs while mentally and physically challenging them to use their body more efficiently.
Working along side the members of the FitPAWS MT Course Instructor team has been an awesome learning experience. The collective knowledge in this group offers a wide variety of experience that the whole team learns from.
I have had some great opportunities to shadow and learn from my local veterinarians as well as Drs Sherman and Deb Canapp at VOSM in MD (headed back there in 2016), Dr. Wendy Baltzer, DVM, PhD, DACVS, DACVSMR, CCRP at OSU and Sarah Ostrin, CCRP - OSU Rehab Dept. I finally met Debbie Gross of Wizard of Paws in person when she came to speak at the FitPAWS Master Trainer Program in April. After teaching with her online it was great to finally meet her in person.
I put some new classes up online at daisypeel.com - Injury Prevention for Shoulder and Psoas Injury, Walk this Way - DogTread treadmill strength activities and K9XTraining. In 2016 stay tuned for more new classes to help your dog understand how to move their body faster, with more precision and with less chance of injury.
And now for some thoughts -
When looking at designing a fitness plan for a client's dog, I always look at a gentle progression with milestones and challenges. I continually assess the dog so that the level of difficulty can be increased or decreased based solely on the dog's ability to maintain the proper posture and the muscle engagement intended for each activity. It is important to always be watching the dogs posture and foot placement as well as your reward position when training exercises. The handlers reward and/or hand position as well as their body posture can greatly affect the dog's ability to maintain proper position and weight distribution.
Some things can cause a temporary decline in performance:
Constant reassessment of your dog's abilities by you or by your K9 Fitness Coach is essential. If your dog has tight or sore muscles, participating in some active range of motion exercise and/or flexibility training can keep injury at bay. Catching a soft tissue injury early on with a referral to a qualified veterinarian, can make a huge difference in the recovery time and eventual return to activity. Having your K9Fitness coach assess your dog regularly, can truly help handlers work through their fitness plan "mindfully". Remember that just because your dog could do it yesterday does not mean they can do it today.
A good fitness plan will have progressive exercises that start at the foundation level and progress forward so that your dog builds the strength and skills needed to perform exercise without compensations or possible injury. Always, make sure that you are starting with the base layer or foundation level of an exercise if your dog has never performed the chosen exercise before or if your dog is new to strength activities. That said, some dogs that have been involved in a strength training program need to be re-evaluated for form and function to make sure that they are performing the exercises while engaging the proper muscles groups. Some times this has to do with reward/hand position or the handlers posture as mentioned above. Again, having another set of eyes on to help with what you can't see is so important and a K9 Fitness coach has many tools in their tool box to achieve your goals.
For example, if you aspire to have your dog stand on four FitPAWS paw pods, which increases limb awareness, core strength and balance, you must first build value for putting front feet on the pods, train an independent back up, then teach your dog to back up to the pods, then work on all four feet. Learning to first balance with front feet elevated, then gaining the rear end awareness to back up and elevate rear feet is the foundation training for learning to put 4 paws on 4 pods. To prepare your dog for each step, be mindful of your reward position and your dog's posture to make sure that you are encouraging proper muscle engagement and weight distribution.
Many of you have seen this video before but this is Drama's video about learning to find FitPAWS paw pods at about 3.5 mo old.
I just wanted to share what I have been doing this year along with some tips about progression of exercise, having a fitness coach to watch your dog's movement, and making sure that you give your dog the opportunity to learn how to efficiently engage the proper muscles for stability by teaching foundation level behaviors first. Using a progressive approach is key to reducing the chance of injury while improving muscle mass and tone over time.
Bobbie Lyons, CCFT, KPA CPT