So, the weather is really bad again, the days are short, but you still want to pep up yourself and your dog? Turn your living room into a temporary adventure playground! Don’t worry—you don’t have to rearrange your house. Just use things that you already have to set up a course.
Exercises for dexterity and mobility are not only fun but, as little tests of courage, they train your dog’s body awareness and build up his self confidence. They also help you become good at guiding him into all kinds of positions and in showing him the way yourself. Here are a few starter activities.
The Collapsed Tunnel Adventure
This tunnel ends in a flap that your dog has to push himself through.
• You need a chair (alternatively, a coffee table) and a blanket.
• Place the blanket over the chair so that it hangs down two opposite sides; there should be a lot of overhang at one end to create the flap.
Very important: Make sure the blanket is attached to the chair so that it cannot slip off while your dog is walking through it. Such an accident could totally spoil your dog’s fun.
This is how it works:
•Your dog waits on one side of the tunnel. If he hasn’t learned to wait yet, ask someone to stay with him and gently hold him if necessary.
•Go to the other end of the tunnel, pick up the end of the blanket and catch your dog’s eye. Call him, and reward him when he comes to you.
•Do this a few more times; each time, lower the blanket gradually so that your dog gets used to the feeling of pushing himself through to the exit.
•Keep the degree of difficulty low in the beginning, with the tunnel overhang rather short so that your dog isn’t in the dark too long.
Challenges on the Ground
You have probably already observed that your dog avoids grates or doesn’t like rustling plastic covers. So why not try a little test in a familiar environment? Integrate these into your course:
•Doormats made of different fibers.
•Newspaper (unfolded or rumpled and placed into a shallow cardboard box).
•An air mattress with only a little air in it (provided that your dog doesn’t have long or sharp nails).
Let your dog investigate the unknown surfaces step-by-step on his own. Every little test of courage passed—even if it is only placing one paw on the different surfaces in the beginning—is worth a reward and gives your dog a little bit of self-confidence that carries into his everyday life.
Living Room Obstacles
Depending on the size of the space and the dog, as well as the flooring, you can include jumps in your living room agility. Appropriately low jumping elements can be built out of different items:
•Empty plastic flower boxes.
This is how your dog learns to jump:
•Make it easy for him in the beginning. Arrange your obstacle so that, ideally, your dog can’t pass beside or underneath it. Use doorframes or chairs as lateral restrictions.
•Encourage your dog to jump over the hurdle with the aid of some treats. You can jump with him in the beginning. Or you step over the hurdle first, and then lure your dog over to the other side.
•When your dog understands the game and has tried different obstacles, insert a verbal cue (for instance, the word “jump”) and send your dog over the hurdle with it.
Adapted from Playtime for Your Dog, published by Cadmos Books and distributed by Trafalgar Square Publishing from Independent Publishers Group. Copyright 2008 by Cadmos Equestrian.