Conditioning for my Terriers : keeping them fit and strong

In the last couple of years I have become more heavily involved in looking at my owns dogs conditioning and fitness, as my own mobility deteriorates I want to ensure my dogs continue to have strong bodies so they are pain free, can do the activities they enjoy and to help them do more!

What first alerted me to the fact my dogs might not be invincible was Cassie having difficulties jumping in our front door step, which is about a foot high, and then starting to not want to jump in the back door step, about 6/7 inches high.

I looked up how to strengthen dogs’ rear legs and core strength and started online Canine Conditioning classes through Fenzi (FDSA) and Debbie Gross and was hooked!! Within weeks Cassie was stronger, using her back legs better and jumping up both types of door step happily! All three of my dogs were enjoying the new challenges of these unusual training exercises and I wanted to learn more!!!

I’ve progressed to further Canine Conditioning and Canine X Training classes, Canine Massage and even a Canine Fitness Trainer programme which I started several months ago and will complete this year!  My Cassie is able to learn and perform new tricks and old exercises and still do 2-3 hour walks (I allow her rests but really the rests are for me!), Taylor has a stronger core which in turn strengthens his back along with the laser treatment every couple of weeks for scapula tension, and Merlins body is muscley, strong and that of an athlete!!

The conditioning and understanding of recognising basic issues with dogs postures has helped me in training other dogs too; I understand better what a dog needs to work on to gain the strength for things like Sit Pretty, handstands and standing on back legs. I can see from how a dog stands or sits where there may be body weaknesses and can advise on how to change this to help their dog hold these positions more comfortably. I’ve been able to work with dogs with illnesses and conditions that have weakened the bodies but we have strengthened the body back up to support weak back legs, straight shoulders and outward pointing elbows,  – my overall understanding of how dogs bodies work is entirely updated making me into a more synthetic trainer who can adjust a dogs training to include strengthens of awareness exercises to suit that dog best and help them and their owner achieve even more!

Its even helped me create my Senior Dogs Classes, which have been amazing to run and I’m very privileged to work with these super golden oldies! I’ve also created my Senior Dogs Progress Awards which are going well. My Wag and Tone classes have started well and I can help owners understand why we do the exercises and what we are working on plus have more specific conditioning classes planned!

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I teach fun agility and my awareness of how the body grows and develops is even better now so I can explain in more detail why a puppy of 5 months old can’t take part in proper agility classes yet, and why a 12 month giant breed is not ready for off the ground jumps compared to a 14 month JRT! I’ve always known but now can explain what is happening in theirs dogs bodies and what complications can happen – learning about Canine Conditioning has helped me improve my skills as a dog owner and dog trainer immensely and I can’t recommend it enough!

We do our fitness and conditioning almost every day (on a flare up I can’t bend and lift dogs on and off equipment) and we vary our routine. I use dog specific equipment but give owners alternatives they will have at home like using dog beds, cushions and small steady boxes!

Awareness for our dogs health, fitness and wellbeing is growing and it’s fantastic – I am very enthusiastic about helping my customers with their dogs conditioning – All About Dogs Show, Suffolk, over Easter have asked me to be part of their Q&A  section to help with Canine Conditioning and Senior Dogs fitness plus have been asked to run my training ring both days so I’ll be there to offer help with Tricks, Conditioning, Older Dogs work and more so come along and see me and my lovely supportive team of dog owners and team members!

My Senior Dogs Progress Awards are on Facebook in their own group and rosettes are being ordered currently with certificates already being sent out – Just look up DTES Senior Dogs Progress Awards!

Moral of this blog? Older dogs may sometimes need training, activities and challenges adapting a little to suit them but they still enjoy using their brains to learn new things and their bodies still have lots to give if you teach the body how to be strong! And dogs of all ages, abilities and size can benefit from a better understanding of how they perform activities and how to help the body work better overall.

Enjoy your dogs everyone and go spend some time with them this weekend!

 

 

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Training for Real Life – and when you need to rely on it!

This weekend has been a tough one for me, not so much for my Norwich Terriers! It really highlights to me how many environmental and true to life situations can happen and could potentially spook or confuse my own dogs but with some planned practise can become another way to positively praise your dogs!

Im having an ME Crash weekend – this means I’m experiencing payback for having tried to do too much, which in this case was having my hair coloured by my mum Saturday after a busy and stressful few days with work and events! So Saturday afternoon and evening I slept, most of Sunday I slept, when I got up for my dogs it was so uncomfortable I needed my walking stick, something I don’t use often if I can help it, and move slowly.

So today, Sunday morning, my 3 dogs ask to go out and they patiently wait for me to get out of bed slowly, move to one side as I fumble for my stick. As I walk to the door my dogs pass me slowly and carefully so as to not trip me up and leave the space available in front of me that my stick needs. They don’t chew my stick or try and play with it.

When I get to the back door it takes me a couple of minutes to open it as my hands are so painful and the door is heavy but my dogs stand patiently and wait without barking or scrabbling at the door. And in their way back in they come to me, turn and back up close so I can reach their tails to stroke instead of presenting their heads as they realise this is a day I can’t bend down to their height! This was just a 20 minute segment – we had breakfast prep and servicing, our dog walk etc also, all at my pace.

Without previous training practise the walking stick could have been exciting or scary to my dogs which would making me relying on it dangerous. Without self control work they would have been racing back and forth excitedly as I made my way slowly to the door and thus would have tripped me up and I would have fallen on them!

Its worth thinking about what changes can take place for you or your family that may affect your dogs as putting some practise in place now will help later on. Family members who visit with walking sticks or wheelchairs that your dog may not be used to, if you suffer with a bad back and require your dogs to learn to stand on a seat or paws up on a box to help you get their collar on for a walk, crate training to give your dogs their own safe space before a friend visits with their friendly but excited children! Replicating situations before they are needed can mean you can take your time with your dogs, can work through any surprises and if and when you need to rely on the scenario your dog is more likely to respond positively.

Plus of course these provide additional new challenges for you and your dog to spend time working on which to me is a great way to spend time! Have a think about what might be useful in the future – maybe a new baby on the way with new sounds, smells, not wanting a dog to jump up, or an operation in a few weeks which means you can’t bend or stretch to much so need your dog to not pull on lead or to go get their lead for you …

I’m grateful I have dogs who are well socialised to life itself and can adapt reasonably easily but also see an opportunity to teach them how to handle a new situation as just this, an opportunity – making for a much more straightforward time working through a personally difficult day while ensuring my three dogs were not stressed or out of routine.

I leave you with a short video of Merlin helping me with fetching a tissue from the box when I sneeze – I love my little dogs!

 

Finding What Makes Your Own Dog ‘Tick’

This week during one of my Beginners training classes we looked at basic moving Heelwork. This is starting to show dogs where the heel position is, how to stay closer to their owners while moving, focus work and often involves some level of self control from bouncy and excitable dogs!

We have a bouncy excitable dog in a gorgeous 14 month Parsons JRT – we introduced the clicker to help his mum mark the best behaviours he was offering as when he started with us just 2 months ago he was barking at all other dogs he saw in frustration and excitement, didn’t know how to focus on his mum at all, and wanted to play with every dog within the area! We’ve helped guide this dog’s mum on how and when to use the clicker (it can be an art form In itself just getting timing right and knowing what is the Behaviour we want to highlight!) and are seeing dramatic improvements each week and hear of how better he is doing on walks also.

This week we looked at beginners Heelwork and I spoke to this dogs mum about not being too focused when he bounced and leaps during the Heelwork but to Click once he has feet on the ground and can walk just a step or two. We started here then clicked for 3/4 steps on the floor … Literally within 4 mins this dog walk walking next to his mum looking up archer face, trotting along as if he had done it for 14 months and the bouncing and leaping had pretty much stopped!  We were thrilled – but of course I was so busy teaching I didn’t get to film it which is a shame as the progression was amazing to watch!

So with methods geared to suit each dogs character and breed individually and a little time working with a dogs’ owner on breaking things down and focusing on the areas we want to achieve small results can happen quite quickly which in turn lead to progression and result become that bit bigger and continue 🙂 We don’t  need to rush into achieving the full Picture in one go but continued repetition and becoming potentially frustrated if that doesn’t suit the dog, but instead making training easier to understand for our dogs means they will learn small pieces of an exercise and enjoy it more and then linking together becomes a natural progression!

Moral of the story? Every dog is different and there is never one single way of training an exercise to all dogs – finding the right method and reward for each dog will lead to more dogs enjoying the learning process, more owners enjoying working with their dogs and better communication with our K9 friends all round!

Go have some fun with your dog(s) this weekend – however you dog does that 😀

My Training Week by Cassie Nutkins

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So I’ve been asked to write a guest blog – I’m Cassie, Joe Nutkin’s 15 year old Norwich Terrier 🙂

I love learning new things despite my lack of hearing and having cataracts in both eyes, and vary between progressing old training and learning completely new things 🙂 When I get I right I get thumbs up from mum and as tasty treat and it’s fab!

This past week we have done a combination of our fitness exercises and some tricks towards my Champion Trick Title. The fitness is to help me stay active and including strengthening my core, my back legs and now also my shoulders and I can safely says it’s helping – I can once again jump back in the front and back doors despite steps of nearly a foot high out front (I’m not even a foot tall!) and it means I can race round the garden and on walks too!

When we work on fitness we warm up first, then vary the exercises each time – so today it was standing with paws on exercise equipment while we adjusted weight on front and back legs, yesterday we looked at cavaletti for leg awareness and sits to stands for rear leg work! Then we cool down at the end – really important plus often means a few extra treats too!

My current tricks are the last few needed towards my Champion Trick X Title – I achieved Expert last June and we stopped for a while but recently started filming my champion tricks – I’m now working on polishing my target training again plus a chain trick – this means mum gives one cue (a point) and I do a couple of things in a row without extra help or cues.  I’m loving the tricks – have learn lots of new things and mum is patient with me, using hand signals to help me see what is wanted, thumbs up, smiles, fuss and treats to let me know I’ve worked it out, and sometimes my nephews Taylor and Merlin get to have a try too – they only get it right because I’ve shown them!

 

Anyhoo – here is a link to a tiny trick that I enjoy – turning off a touch lamp – it might not look much but when you can’t hear and have limited vision having a cue from distance is harder and I sometimes forget what I supposed to be doing but here I told I was ‘fabulous’ – and intend to agree

Mum works closely with senior dogs, for her general training plus her Senior Dogs Classes and her Senior Dogs Progress Awards and her practise with me has helped her learn more about us golden oldies – in glad to have helped mum help numerous older dogs move better and enjoy more brain work!!!

Thankyou for reading my blog and I hope you liked it, or at least some of it.

Cassie x

Involving fun with your dogs training!

As part of training with my terriers and with customers dogs it’s important that’s dogs receive some kind of recognition when they are getting it right or at least trying to think about it!

This doesn’t always mean food – food can be quick and easy for a food loving dog with no intolerances or stomach issues but food can be substituted for toys, belly rubs, a game of chasing their owner, itching that spot behind the ear – whatever your dog enjoys can become their reward!!

Take my three; Cassie has never been a big playing dog, doesn’t care about her toys (has her first ever toy from 15 years ago still with working squeak) but she can still have fun and interact! As part of praise I give her lower back a massage, I give a thumbs up (visual ‘click’ as she is deaf), big smile and she will have a piece of treat too. But it’s a package of praise not just lobbing a treat into her mouth – there’s emotions of joy and celebration, there’s body language, and touch too!

When I work with Border Terrier Pongo we use solely toys, praise and fuss – no food at all. So a tennis ball in my hand to assist my body language in showing Pongo what I am asking for then a ‘yes’ to mark the desired response and the ball is brought to Pongo’s mouth to take and squeak! We also praise him, give his body a fuss, laughter and smiles and I’m sure sometimes he laughs back!!

 

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Being pleased with each type of success when training your do can be difficult when we are aiming for a higher goal but remember from your dogs perspective that they don’t know your end goal! So letting them know when they are right or heading the right way makes such a difference! And keeping it fun for you and your dog! Mix in with the new training some of your dogs favourites – Taylor enjoys a good emergency stop and a play retrieve so these are included with new activities – currently he is starting to learn to wrap his paw around my leg on cue so after a couple of repetitions we also do a retrieve then ask for a stop! This keeps Taylor motivated and focused, helps us both enjoy our time even if he struggles one session to offer what I think I’m asking for, and breaks up the intensity that at repetition training!

Fun is whatever you and your dog say it is, not what you are told it has to be and only that! Enjoy the time you spend training – I love every training session I can have with my dogs, regardless of what we are working on, and sometimes we go back to real basics just for the sheer pleasure of some fast paced training full of games, praise and motivation – and that’s as important for us as it is for our dogs 🙂

Go have fun working your dogs!

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New Year, New way to help people and their dogs!

So tonight I’ve decided to start a blog! This is brand new to me but I’m hoping to be able to post about the training I do with my own dogs plus dogs I’m privileged to meet in my training classes and my online classes!

This first post really is to say hi and introduce myself – I’m owned by 3 Norwich Terriers, Cassie (15), Taylor (11 1/2) and Merlin (4) and have run Dog Training for Essex & Suffolk dog training centre for several years.

I’m incredibly eager to help as many dogs and families be happier, communicate better and help dogs continue to be active in both mind and body as they get older, following illness or injury and for the day to day health and welfare of our dogs.

I still teach Cassie new things regularly in brain stimulation as well as physical conditioning and strengthening and she loves it all!

I hope to be able to offer tips, insights and definately hope to entertain some people along the way – while I’m learning about blogging please bear with me!

Happy 2016 and here’s to trying something new!

Joe

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