The second of the two Say Yes workshops I took this week was on rear end awareness. This is an extremely important aspect of training for dog sports as many dogs don’t really realize they have a caboose. Their hind legs just follow along, unconsciously, while their front end makes all the decisions. This can lead to problems on contact equipment, such as the dog walk, where their hind ends can slide off if they don’t pay attention. Teaching rear end awareness helps them overcome this problem.
Hannah and Mira both actually have pretty good natural hind end awareness, but I wanted to take this workshop for another reason. These exercises are also very good for building muscle in the back end of the dog, which is crucial for Ross with his weak hips. I have done a lot of work with him already, but wanted to learn what more I could do. So the workshop was perfect.
Exercises we worked on included backing up, pedestal work, exercise ball work, dog squats, and box work. I’ve actually done all of these before (except the exercise ball tricks), but it was good to work with a different instructor who was able to point out where I was going wrong in my technique and how to fix it. For example, all my dogs will backup, but they all stop at a certain distance and I could not figure out how to get them to keep going without stepping into them. She had us start over with the basics, tossing tons of food and rewarding for every paw movement backwards. I had been stingy with the rewards, and ended up with a dog who would take two or three steps back and stop, waiting for her one treat. This time I just tossed treats constantly and the next thing I knew the dog was half way across the room from me.
The ball work was really interesting. Basically it was pilates for dogs, getting the dog to get onto an exercise ball, balance on it, and then do sits, downs and stands while you hold the ball steady for them. Great core strengthening exercise, that’s for sure! I thought Hannah would be freaked out by this, but she was fine other than wanting to herd the ball. She loves to herd soccer balls and thought she’d died and gone to heaven when presented with this giant purple globe! Good thing she didn’t puncture it!
As with the one-jump training, I will write more about these exercises when I have a chance to practice them with each of the dogs.